Skip to main content

Full text of "The gypsy's parson : his experiences and adventures"

See other formats


THE GYPSY'S PARSON 





PHOTO BRIdHAM. 



THE REV: GEORGE HALL. 



THE 

GYPSY'S PARSON 

HIS EXPERIENCES AND ADVENTURES 



BY 

THE REV. GEORGE HALL 

RECTOR OF RUCKLAND, LINCOLNSHIRE 



ILLUSTRATED 



PHILADELPHIA 
J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY 

LONDON : SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & CO. LTD. 



7 






TO 

MY WIFE 

MY COMPANION 
ON MANY A GYPSY-JAUNT 



395343 



" They cast the glamour der him? 



"You must forgive us. We are barbarians. . . . We are ruffians 
of the sun . . . and we must be forgiven everything." 

" It is easy to forgive in the sun," Domini said. 

"Madame, it is impossible to be anything but lenient in the 
sun. That is my experience. . . . But, as I was saying, the sun 
teaches one a lesson of charity. When I first came to live in 
Africa in the midst of the sand-rascals eh, Madame, I suppose as 
a priest I ought to have been shocked by their goings-on. And, 
indeed I tried to be, I conscientiously did my best, but it was no 
good. I couldn't be shocked. The sunshine drove it all out of 
me. I could only say, ' It is not for me to question le bon Dieu, 
and le bon Dieu has created these people and set them here in 
the sand to behave as they do. What is my business? I can't 
convert them. I can't change their morals I must just be a 
friend to them, cheer them up in their sorrows, give them a bit if 
they're starving, doctor them a little I'm a first-rate hand at 
making an Arab take a pill or a powder when they are ill, and 
I make them at home with the white marabout.' That's what the 
sun has taught me, and every sand-rascal and sand-rascal's child 
in Amara is a friend of mine." 

" You are fond of the Arabs, then ? " she said. 

" Of course I am, Madame. I can speak their language, and 
I'm as much at home in their tents, and more, than I ever should 
be at the Vatican with all respect to the Holy Father." 

(Conversation between Domini and Father Beret in The Garden of Allah , 
quoted here by the kind permission of Mr. Robert Hichens. ) 



vi 



PREFACE 

NOT a few writers have essayed to study the Gypsies 
in dusty libraries. I have companioned with them 
on fell and common, racecourse and fairground, on 
the turfy wayside and in the city's heart. In my 
book, which is a record of actual experiences, I have 
tried to present the Gypsies just as I have found 
them, without minimising their faults or magnifying 
their virtues. Most of the Gypsies mentioned in the 
following pages have now passed away, and of those 
who remain, many have, for obvious reasons, been 
renamed. 

For the majority of the pictures adorning my 
book, I owe a profound debt of gratitude to my 
friend, Mr. Fred Shaw ; also, for their kind per- 
mission to include several pictures in my " Romany 
Gallery," my cordial thanks are due to Mrs. Johnson, 
of Yatton, Rev. H. H. Malleson, Mr. William 
Ferguson, Mr. T. J. Lewis, Mr. H. Stimpson, and 
Mr. F. Wilkinson. 

The phonetics contained in this work are based 
upon a system invented by my friend, Mr. R. A. 
Scott Macfie, of the Gypsy Lore Society, whose 
innumerable kindnesses I most gratefully acknow- 
ledge. 

G. H. 

RUCKLAND RECTORY, 
NEAR LOUTH, 
LINCOLNSHIRE. 

vii 



CONTENTS 

CHAP. PACK 

I. GYPSY COURT MY INITIATION INTO GYPSYDOM . i 
II. CHARACTERS OF THE COURTREADING BORROW . 16 

III. NORTH-COUNTRY GYPSIES . . . -32 

IV. MY POACHING PUSSY A ROMANY BENISON MY 

FIRST TASTE OF HEDGEHOG . . .41 

V. A GYPSY BAPTISM ROMANY NAMES . . .52 

VI. I MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE . . . -57 

VII. THE BLACKPOOL GYPSYRY . . . .71 

VIII. A TRENTSIDE FAIR . . . . .89 

IX. TAKEN FOR TRAMPS AN EAST ANGLIAN FAMILY . 99 

X. PETERBOROUGH FAIR . . . . .118 

XI. A FORGOTTEN HIGHWAY "ON THE ROAD" WITH 
JONATHAN THE PATRIN THE GHOST OF THE 
HAYSTACK . . . . . .134 

XII. THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN . . . .152 

XIII. WITH THE YORKSHIRE GYPSIES . . . .172 

XIV. A NIGHT WITH THE GYPSIES THE SWEEP OF LYNN 

LONDON GYPSIES ON EPSOM DOWNS . . 186 

XV. TINKERS AND GRINDERS . . . . .205 

XVI. THE INN ON THE RIDGEWAY TALES BY THE FIRESIDE 213 

XVII. HORNCASTLE FAIR ...... 229 



x CONTENTS 

CHAP. PAGE 

XVIII. A GYPSY SEPULCHRE BURIAL LORE THE PASSING 

OF JONATHAN . . . . . .238 

XIX. BITSHADO PAWDEL (TRANSPORTED) . . .247 

XX. A ROMANY MUNCHAUSEN .... 256 

XXI. THE GYPSY OF THE HILLS IN THE HEART OF WALES 

A WESTMORLAND HORSE FAIR . . .262 

XXII. FURZEMOOR . . . . . . .278 

GLOSSARY OF ROMANY WORDS . . . .291 

GYPSY FORE OR CHRISTIAN NAMES . . .299 

INDEX . . . . . . .303 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

THE GYPSY'S PARSON ... . Frontispiece 

FACING PAGE 

A ROMANY LASS ....... 6 

THE CAMP IN THE LANE ... . . 20 

A DAUGHTER OF "JASPER PETULENGRO" . . .28 
ON THE MOORLAND . ... 36 

A NORTH-COUNTRY GYPSY GIRL . . . . 3 6 

ROUND THE CAMP-FIRE .... .48 

A CHILD OF THE CARAVAN . . . .48 

A REST BY THE WAY . . . . .62 

A WAYSIDE IDYL ..... .68 

CHILDREN OF THE OPEN AIR . 68 

ON THE LOOK-OUT . . .72 

THE GYPSY'S PARSON WITH HIS FRIENDS . 86 

FRIENDS AT THE FAIR ... 86 

A MAID OF THE TENTS ... .112 

ON THE EVE OF THE FAIR . . . . Il8 

MIDLAND GYPSIES ..... .128 

SOUTH-COUNTRY GYPSIES ... .128 

NETTING RABBITS .... ... 139 

'NEATH THE HEDGEROW . . . . . 139 

THE GYPSY'S PARSON ON THE ROAD . . . .142 



xii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING PAGE 

GYPSIES AT HOME . . . . . .146 

COMRADES ... . . . .146 

"A MOTHER IN EGYPT" . . .160 

HOUSE-DWELLING GYPSIES . . . . . .172 

A GYPSY LAD . . . . . . .184 

ON THE RACECOURSE . . . . . .202 

A TINKER OF THE OLDEN TIMES . . . . .208 

A WELSH GYPSY TINKER . . . . . .208 

A ROMANY FIDDLER ...... 222 

HORNCASTLE HORSE FAIR ...... 230 

READY FOR THE FAIR ...... 232 

YARD OF THE "GEORGE" INN, HORNCASTLE . . .232 

A LONDON GYPSY . . . . . . .246 

"BLACK AS A BOZ'LL" . . . . . .258 

OLI PURUM . . . . . . . .264 

A GYPSY HARPIST . . . . . . .264 

A HAPPY PAIR . . . . . . .268 

A CHAT BY THE GATE . . . . . .268 

'NEATH CAUTLEY CRAG . . . . . .272 

A BOTTOMLESS POOL . . . . . .272 

A WANDERING MINSTREL ...... 274 

BROUGH HILL HORSE FAIR ..... 276 

GYPSY CHILDREN 280 






THE GYPSY'S PARSON 



CHAPTER I 

GYPSY COURTMY INITIATION INTO 
GYPSYDOM 

A TANGLE of sequestered streets lying around a triple- 
towered cathedral ; red roofs and gables massed under 
the ramparts of an ancient castle ; a grey Roman arch 
lit up every spring-time by the wallflower's mimic 
gold ; an old-world Bailgate over whose tavern yards 
drifted the sleepy music of the minster chimes; a 
crooked by-lane leading down to a wide common 
loved by the winds of heaven these were the sur- 
roundings of my childhood's home in that hilltop 
portion of Lincoln which has never quite thrown off 
its medieval drowsiness. 

Not far from my father's doorstep, as you looked 
towards the common, lay a narrow court lined with 
poor tenements, and terminating in a bare yard 
bounded by a squat wall. Every detail of this alley 
stands out in my memory with the sharpness of a 
photograph ; the cramped perspective of the place 
as you entered it from our lane, the dreary-looking 



THE GYPSY'S PARSON 



Houses- ''with 'dielr mvul-floored living-rooms fronting 
upon the roadway, the paintless doors and windows, 
the blackened chimneys showing rakish against the 
sky, all combined to make a picture of dun-coloured 
misery. There were, it is true, a few redeeming 
features gilding the prevailing drabness of the scene. 
The entrance to the court had a southerly outlook 
upon green fields stretching up to the verge of the 
Castle Dyking, or, to revive its more gruesome name, 
" Hangman's Ditch," so called from the grim associa- 
tions of a bygone day. From these fields a clean air 
blew through the court, rendering it a less unwhole- 
some haunt for the strange folk who dwelt within its 
precincts ; while not half a mile distant lay the breezy 
common, a glorious playground for the children of 
Upper Lincoln. 

Seeing that this court and its denizens were destined 
in the order of things to make a profound impression 
upon my childish imagination, I may as well develop 
the picture rising so vividly before my mind's eye. 

It was somewhere in the fifties of the last century, 
a few years, that is to say, before my entrance into 
the world, that several families of dark-featured 
"travellers" had pitched upon the court for their 
Gypsyry, a proceeding at which our quiet lane at first 
shrugged its shoulders, then focussed an interested 
gaze upon the intruders and their ways, and finally 
lapsed into an indulgent toleration of them. Thus 
from day to day throughout my early years, there 
might have been seen emerging from the recesses of 



GYPSY COURT 3 

Gypsy Court swarthy men in twos and threes 
accompanied by the poacher's useful lurcher ; nut- 
brown girls with their black hair carelessly caught 
up in orange or crimson kerchiefs ; wrinkled crones 
smoking short clays, as gaily they drove forth in 
their rickety donkey-carts ; buxom mothers carrying 
babies slung, Indian fashion, across their shoulders, 
and bearing on their arms baskets replete with pegs, 
skewers, and small tin-ware of home manufacture. 
As for children, troops of the brown imps were 
generally in evidence, their eldritch shrieks rending 
the air between the portals of the little court and the 
gate opening upon the common. 

No observe could possibly miss the fighting 
scenes and the ringing shouts which made the court 
echo again. A passionate folk are the Gypsies, a 
provoking word being at any time sufficient to call 
forth a blow. Even as I write these words, visions 
of gory fists and faces obtrude themselves through 
the mists of past days. 

However, the Gypsies were never reported to be 
otherwise than polite towards the outsider who 
ventured into the alley. Diplomats rather than 
hooligans were they. " Let's 'eave 'alf a brick at 
'im," is not the Gypsy's way with a stranger who 
happens to stroll into the camp. At the same time 
I would not have it imagined that the inhabitants of 
the squalid court were of the best black Romany 
breed ; far from it, they were mostly of diluted blood, 
else how came they to turn sedentary at all? For 



4 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

pure Gypsies (or Romanitskelaw, as they call them- 
selves), the aristocrats of their race, abhor settled 
life, preferring to die on the road rather than wither 
inside four walls. 

On the occasion of a horse fair in the city, our 
lane would resound with the clanging of hoofs beyond 
the ordinary, and in front of the taverns there was 
much rattling of whipstocks on the insides of hard 
hats, in order to enliven some weedy "screw," and 
so reward its owner for hours of patient "doctoring" 
in a corner well screened from prying eyes. Then 
when the autumnal rains set in, and the leaves began 
to flutter down in showers, there would come from 
afar the rumbling of Romany "homes on wheels," 
driven townwards by the oncoming of winter. To 
me it was always a saddening sight to watch the 
travel-stained wanderers hying to their winter quarters 
through miry streets heavy with mist and gloom. 
Staruben si gav (town is a prison), an ancient vaga- 
bond was heard to remark on a like occasion. 

A spectacle far more inspiriting was the departure 
of a Gypsy cavalcade from the city on a gay spring 
morning. For into the dingy purlieus where the 
travellers had wintered more or less cheerlessly, stray 
sunbeams and soft airs had begun to penetrate. 
Tidings had reached them that away in the open 
something had stirred, or called, or breathed along 
the furzy lanes and among the tree boughs, and 
forthwith every Romany sojourner within the ash- 
strewn yards of the city became eager to resume the 



MY INITIATION INTO GYPSYDOM 5 

free, roving life of the roads. How often have I 
longed for the brush of an artist to depict the com- 
pany of merry Gypsies men, women, and bairns, 
horses, dogs, and donkeys, jingling pot-carts and 
living - wagons bedizened with new paint, starting 
from the top of our lane for the open country, just 
when the wind-rocked woods were burgeoning and 
every green hedge-bottom had a sprinkling of purple 
violets. 

Now until my eleventh year I had seen no more 
than the mere outside of Romany life, and I might 
never have had any Gypsy experiences to relate but 
for a trivial blood-spilling, which, as I look back upon 
it, may well be called my initiation into Gypsydom. 
Indeed, the small incident I am about to mention had 
for me a most important result, insomuch as it made 
me akin to Gypsies for the rest of my life. 

My earliest schools were dames' academies there 
were two of these old-time institutions in our lane. 
Approached by a dark passage, the second of these 
had for its lecture-hall a large brick-floored room, 
whose presiding spirit was a dwarfish lady of sixty- 
five or more, before whom we sat in rows at long 
desks. The school consisted of about a score of 
children who were awed into subjection by a 
threatening rod of supple ash, half as long again as 
the tapering stick around which the scarlet-runners 
in your kitchen garden love to entwine themselves. 
This dread implement of discipline, reared in a recess 
near our mistress's desk, would oft descend upon the 



6 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

head of a chattering boy or girl, and to the tip of 
that rod my own pate was no stranger. 

Among my acquaintances at this school was a 
Gypsy girl whose parents dwelt at the sunny end of 
the aforementioned court. A year or two my senior, 
Sibby Smith was a shapely lass, having soft hazel 
eyes and a wealth of dark hair crowning an olive- 
tinted face. Lissom as whalebone, she had a pretty 
way of capering along the lanes with hedgerow berries 
or leaves of autumn's painting in her hair, and I, a 
silent, retiring boy, would watch her movements with 
admiring eyes. Fittingly upon that lithe form sat a 
garb of tawny-brown, with here a wisp of red and 
there a tag of yellow, mingled as on the wings of a 
butterfly. The girl had a harum-scarum brother, 
Snakey by name and slippery by nature, a little older 
than herself, with whom out of school hours she 
would be off and away searching the bushes for 
birds' nests, or ransacking the thickets for nuts ; and 
one day in school I remember how she pulled out 
inadvertently with her handkerchief a catapult a 
Gypsy can bring down a pheasant with the like and 
falling with a clatter at our teacher's feet, the unholy 
weapon was straightway confiscated, whereat Sibby 's 
face grew darker by a shade, as with her pen-nib she 
savagely stabbed the desk on which our copybooks 
were outspread. A roamer in all the copses and 
lanes around our city, and enjoying the freedom of 
the camps which tarried for little or for long in the 
old brickyards fringing the common, this schoolmate 



MY INITIATION INTO GYPSYDOM 7 

of mine expressed the out-of-door spirit in her very 
gait, and as she pirouetted along the causeway, you 
caught from her flying figure the smell of wood smoke 
and the mossy odour of deep dingles. 

In all the world it is hard to find the elusive 
Gypsy's compeer. Whimsical as the wind, and 
brimful of mischief as an elf of the wilds, Sibby was 
to me the embodiment of bewitching mystery. From 
a hillock by the hedge I have watched her seize a 
skittish pony by the mane and, leaping astride its 
back, gallop madly along a lane, to return a few 
moments later, breathless and dishevelled. This was 
her frolicsome mood. 

Never very far below the surface of the Gypsy 
nature lurks a feeling of disdain, waxing fierce at 
times towards everything and everybody outside the 
Romany world. To this mood the Gypsy life appears 
to be the only life worth living, and the Gypsy is the 
only real man in the world. All other ways and all 
alien folk are suspect. There were times therefore 
when Sibby 's eyes would pierce me through with 
arrows of detestation as though one had hailed from 
beneath the eaves of a constabulary. Yet the next 
day, every shred of this dark feeling would be flung 
to the winds, as under a scented may-bush the girl 
was romancing merrily or instructing me in the 
peculiar whistle giving warning of the approach of 
Velveteens or a policeman. 

Is there in the whole bag of humanity, I wonder, 
a nut harder to crack than the Gypsy ? 



8 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

One afternoon in turning a corner sharply on my 
way home from school, it happened that I ran full 
tilt into Sibby Smith, and before I could say " Jack 
Robinson " I received such a blow on the mouth as 
sent me sprawling all my length on the road. There 
was, I suppose, something ludicrous in the sight of a 
prostrate boy with his legs in the air ; so at least the 
girl seemed to think, for immediately she burst into 
laughter, and her merriment being ever of an infectious 
sort, I found myself laughing too, though inwardly I 
thought my punishment unmerited. A moment later, 
however, as I stood wiping the blood from my lips, 
the puzzle was explained. There in the dust lay a 
half-eaten, red-cheeked apple which the Gypsy had 
been munching when the shock of the collision sent 
it flying from her hand ; hence the blow that de- 
scended upon me so swiftly. Nor after the lapse of 
nearly forty years have I forgotten the forceful stroke 
that laid me low on that autumn afternoon. 

On stormy days, when the loud-lunged gusts made 
a fanfaronade in the chimney-stacks at home, it was 
my delight as a boy to seek the brow of the grassy 
escarpment overlooking our common, and at that 
time I knew nothing more glorious than a tussle with 
the wind roaring over the hilltop. Leaping on the 
springy turf, hatless and bare-armed, fighting a make- 
believe giant of sonorous voice, what high glee of 
spirit was mine ! 

In those days the escarpment boasted a row of 
windmills, old-fashioned structures, built partly of 




MY INITIATION INTO GYPSYDOM 9 

timber and partly of brick and stone, and loud was 
the whirring of sails thereabouts in a brisk wind. 
At the head of a cleft in the hillside, known as 
" Hobbler's Hole," was a mill which had fallen into 
desuetude, and its great sails, shattered by a tempest, 
lay in tangled heaps on the thistle-grown plot around 
the building. To the tall thistles, tufted with downy 
seed, came goldfinches, dainty little fellows, shy as 
fairies. Hitherward came also visitors of another 
kind, for, as might be expected, the unwritten invita- 
tion to such a harvest of firewood had duly spread to 
Gypsy Court. More than once in the twilight Sibby 
got me to help her in carrying off fragments of 
timber, and to a boy with Tiger Tom the Pirate 
secreted in the lining of his jacket, these small ad- 
ventures were not without a tang of the picaresque. 
As time went on, the door in the basement of the 
mill and most of the window-frames were dragged 
piecemeal from their places to boil Gypsy kettles, 
but there still remained the massive ladder giving 
access to the dusty chambers wherein nestled the 
strangest of shadows. Every youngster who came 
to play in Hobbler's Hole knew quite well that the 
mill was haunted. Readily enough we climbed the 
worm-eaten ladder in broad daylight, and scampered 
about the resounding floors, or sat at the frameless 
windows pelting bits of plaster at the jackdaws flitting 
to and fro, but to think of invading the mouldering 
mill in the dusk hour when hollow and common 
were visioned away into shadowy night was another 



io THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

matter. Ah, then the mill took on an eeriness 
befitting a very borderland of goblindom. 

Picturing the crumbling ruin and the wrinkled 
declivity dipping below it towards the common, I 
recall how Snakey Smith said one day to me, " I 
likes to sit afore a fire on the ground. You don't 
feel nothing like so lonesome as you keeps pushing 
sticks into the fire and watching 'em burn away." 
The words aptly express a Gypsy's joy in a fire for 
its own sake, regardless of utilitarian considerations. 
At the moment there may be no kettle waiting to be 
boiled, no black stockpot demanding to be slung on 
the crooked kettle-prop, yet, for the pure pleasure of 
the thing, a Gypsy will light a small pile of dead 
sticks, and, lounging near, will gaze wistfully at the 
spiral of thin, sweet smoke upcurling between the 
trees in the lane. 

Without a doubt, if "you's been a bit onlucky," 
or, if your sky is cloudy with sorrow, there is solace 
in a fire, as in a folk-tale and in the voice of a violin. 
Did not Provost M'Cormick, lawyer and lover of 
Gypsies, find his Border Tinklers, amid their brown 
tents and shaggy "cuddies," reciting traditional tales 
to banish gloom ? " Whenever he saw me dull he 
wad say, ' Come on, Mary, and I'll tell ye a fairy tale,' 
and wi' his gestures, girns, and granes, he wadna be 
lang till he had us a' roarinV 

A Gypsy who resided in a derelict railway carriage 
on a Cheshire common, having lost a dear child, 
refused to be comforted and even declined to take 



MY INITIATION INTO GYPSYDOM u 

food. To his old fiddle he confided his grief, his 
body swaying to and fro as he drew forth plaintive 
airs from the strings. 

Wandering one evening in cowslip-time below 
the decrepit windmill, I came to a stile in the hedge, 
and, passing into the lane, I found Sibby and Snakey 
heaping dead wood upon a fire on the margin of the 
common. 

" There ! " exclaimed the Gypsy girl, " I know'd 
somebody was a-thinking of me, 'cos my boots kept 
coming unlaced." 

" Well, well, you made me jump, baw (mate), you 
did," put in her brother. " How did youjin we were 
akai!" (know we were here). 

" See," said I, " what a pother you are making. 
I caught a whiff of your smoke right on top of the 
hill." 

With that I dropped down beside the fire, and, 
yielding the soul to the witchery of red-gold flames 
dancing against the dark, it was easy enough to glide 
into the realm of Faerie. Sibby, who had been lying 
at full length before the fire, now gathered herself 
into a cross-legged posture, and, lapsing into medita- 
tion, sat twisting a black elf-lock round her forefinger. 
A touch of the "creepy" world seemed also to have 
fallen upon Snakey, for he lay in silence staring into 
the beyond as though he had sighted fairy faces 
peering between the brier sprays ; or was it that the 
knotted tree-bole leaning from the hedge had begun 
to make grimaces ? At last the boy awoke with a 



12 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

start. By his side lay a maiden ash-plant with 
numerous hearts and rings neatly cut on its green 
bark, and, whipping out a knife, he proceeded to add 
further touches to his kosht (stick). This led me to 
talk of my own achievement of that day in carving 
my initials on a beech tree not far from where we 
were sitting. Whereat Sibby remarked 

" Why, it was only last week that me and mother 
went in our cart past Dal ton Brook, and we pulled 
up to look at the old tree what has dm vastaw (two 
hands) cut into it by Orferus Herren, and there they 
were right enough. It was his brother Evergreen 
who broke his neck by tumbling headlong into a 
stone-pit, wasn't it, Snakey ? " 

" For sure it was, pen (sister), and our uncles 
Fennix and Euri were well-nigh killed the same way 
right up agen Scotland, as I've heard dad say times 
and agen." 

" How was that ? " I asked. 

Then followed Snakey 's story, which, as well as I 
remember, ran (in his own words) something like this 

" One night my uncles Fennix and Euri was 
crossing a moor among the mountains, a long way 
up into the North Country. They'd been sitting all 
the day in a kitshima (tavern) and at last they begins 
to think it were time to be marching to their stopping- 
place, some five miles away across the moor, a wery 
nasty country with deep pits and ponds in it. It 
was getting dark and the teeny stars were shining 
above the mountains. Well, my uncles made off 






MY INITIATION INTO GYPSYDOM 13 

with a deal of bustle at first along a beaten track, but 
after going a mile or two, down comes a fog a clear 
thick 'un it was and they soon got off the path and 
were lost. It looked like 'em having to besh avrt 
(lie out) all night, as poor Jacob did. Only my 
uncles didn't see no silver ladder with angels dancing 
up and down on it, and mi diri Duvel (GoS) sitting 
atop of it. But just as they were about dead beat 
after poddling up and down for I can't tell you how 
long, they walked as nigh as nothing over the edge 
of a deep pit. It were a narrow shave, for they only 
managed to save theirselves by clutching at the 
bushes atop of the pit. Then what do you think, 
baw ? They just turned round, and there afore 'em 
stood a terrible crittur rearing itself up and groaning 
loud. Their hearts was in their mouths. They 
thought their time had come. 

" * If that ain't a mulo (ghost), my name's not 
Fennix,' whispered my uncle. 

"'Keka' (No); 'it's the wery Beng (Devil) his- 
self,' says Euri. 

" And there they stands a-dithering like leaves, 
till at last my uncle Fennix pulls hisself together 
and walks on a yard or two, staring hard afore him, 
and weren't Euri glad above a bit to hear his brother 
say in his nat'ral voice, ' Come on, it's nobbut a 
blessed dunnock (steer) after all.' And with that the 
crittur kicked up its heels and galloped away, and by 
a bit of luck my uncles stumbled right on to a cart- 
way as led 'em straight to the tents." 



14 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Among Gypsies, when the tale-telling mood is 
on, story will follow story, often until drowsiness 
supervenes; for these folk dearly love a tale, and 
are themselves possessed of no small store of family 
legends and folk-narratives. 

"Now, it's your turn, sister. Let's have that 
tale about Old Ruzlam Boz'll's boy." 

Without stopping for a moment to think, Sibby 
began to reel off what was evidently a well-known 
and favourite story, punctuating her sentences by 
picking from her gown and flinging at me sundry 
prickly balls of burdock seed, telling of what prowlings 
in the woods ! 

"It's donkey's ears (i.e. long years) since Ruzlam 
Boz'll's wife had a baby boy born'd in a tent near 
a spring what bubbled out betwixt two rocks, and 
every summer they used to besk (rest) by the same 
spring. By and by, when the dear little boy grew 
big enough, his mammy sent him every morning 
to fill the kettle. But one day he got a surprise. 
There on the grass by the spring what should he 
see but a new silver shilling. Of course he picked 
it up and put it into his pocket, and never said 
nothing about it when he got back to the tent. 
Next morning he found double the money at the 
spring-head, and so it went on until his pockets 
were chinking full of silver, and for all that he 
never breathed no word about his luck. But one 
day Old Ruzlam heard the boy rattling the money 
in his pockets, and forced him to tell where he 



MY INITIATION INTO GYPSYDOM 15 

got it from. Next morning the daddy went off, 
laughing to hisself and thinking of the nice heap 
of silver he was going to pick up, but after he had 
looked up and down and all over, he found just 
nothing at all, leastways he saw no money ; but 
as he stood scratting his head, puzzled-like, there, 
on one side of the spring, he saw a dear little 
teeny old man, and on the other side a dear little 
teeny old woman, and, saying never a word, they 
stooped down and flung water right into Ruzlam's 
eyes. So away he ran home, and there, if he didn't 
find his boy had gone cross-eyed. What's more, 
he never came right agen." 

Thus, by pleasant steps amid scenes not lacking 
in glamour, I advanced little by little in my know- 
ledge of these fascinating straylings with whom no 
stranger ever yet found it easy to mingle as one 
of themselves. 



CHAPTER II 
CHARACTERS OF THE COURTREADING BORROW 

A FEW miles outside my native city, there stands 
on the bank of the Roman Fossdyke a lonely house 
known as " Drinsey Nook," formerly a tavern with 
bowling greens, swings, and skittle alleys, a resort 
of wagonette and boating parties out for a frolic 
in the sunshine. Often on bygone summer eves 
have I loitered about the old inn gleaming white 
amid its guardian trees, but best of all I loved to 
see the beechen boughs drop their fiery leaves upon 
its mossy roof in the fading of the year. 

To-day, as of yore, the brown-sailed barges, 
laden with grain or scented fir-planks, glide lazily 
past the place, and a motor-boat will at times go 
racing by, to the alarm of the waterhens which 
had almost come to look on the sleepy canal as 
their own. 

Does it ever dream of its gay past, I wonder 
this old forgotten house fronting upon the rush- 
fringed waterway? 

One golden October morning, my father, who 
had a passion for boating on our local waters, hired 
a small sailing craft, and, the breezes aiding us, 

16 



CHARACTERS OF THE COURT 17 

we were wafted along the Fossdyke as far as the 
said riparian house of call. Hour after hour we 
wandered m the beech woods stretching behind the 
inn, resting now on some protruding snag or fallen 
bole to watch the squirrels at play, and again push- 
ing our way breast-high through sheets of changing 
bracken to the hazel thickets where the nuts hung 
in clusters well within reach of our hooked sticks. 

Linked with this ramble in the time of the falling 
leaves is an impression I have never forgotten. 
" Look," said my father, pointing to a decayed 
stump of a post almost buried amid dank moss, 
11 this is all that remains of Tom Otter's gibbet- 
tree." I shuddered as he told how in other days 
he had heard the chains clanking in the wind, and 
he went on to relate that his father was among 
the crowd of citizens who, starting from Lincoln 
Castle one March morning in the year 1806, 
followed the murderer's corpse until it was hanged 
in irons on a post thirty feet high on Saxilby 
Moor. For several days after the event, the 
vicinity of the gibbet resembled a country fair with 
drinking booths, ballad singers, Gypsy fiddlers, and 
fortune-tellers. 

The impressions of childhood are enduring ; and 
just as the smell of the wallflowers after an April 
shower will revive for you, dear fellow, the vision 
of a garden walk under a lichened wall, and the 
dainty step of your lady love by your side, so for 
me the wild scent of withering bracken in the red 



1 8 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

autumn glades prompts my fancy to envisage anew 
the gruesome scene as depicted by my father on 
that October day long gone by. Nor is this all. 

To mention the name of Tom Otter is to call 
up for me more than one swarthy inhabitant of 
Gypsy Court who lived to make old bones and sit 
by the fire telling tales and smoking black tobacco. 
I have but to close my eyes to behold a procession 
of these " characters " straggling out of the dark 
court, their faces and figures lingering for a moment 
in memory's beam of light, then passing again into 
the shadows. And what strange stories are wrapped 
up in the names and lives of some of these folk ; 
quaint comedy, grim tragedy, riotous passion, tales 
of love, laughter, and tears. 

There was old Tom, nicknamed " Tom o' the 
Gibbet," whose patronymic was Petulengro, which 
is Gypsy for Smith. 

Each of the great Romany clans, be it known, 
duplicates its surname, one form being used before 
the gawft (non-Gypsies, aliens); the other form, of 
cryptic import, is for the brotherhood of the blood. 

Old Tom Petulengro, further known as " Sneezing 
Tommy," owing to his liking for snuff, carried on a 
thriving trade in wooden meat-skewers and pegs, 
and in his backyard you might see him with infinite 
patience cutting up willow rods or splitting blocks 
of close-grained elder- wood ; and for years I never 
used to hear in church the familiar words of the 
Psalmist, " Our bones lie strewn before the pit, like 



CHARACTERS OF THE COURT 19 

as when one heweth wood upon the earth," without 
seeing that narrow yard with its shining axe lying 
midst a litter of chips and splinters. Elder-wood 
is still in request for meat-skewers, and to this day 
not a few country butchers prefer to use the Gypsy- 
made article. Old Tom used to say, with a twinkle 
in his eye, that he found nearly all his raw material 
on his journeys up and down the countryside. For, 
as you could not fail to observe, it was a habit 
with some of the dwellers in Gypsy Court to absent 
themselves periodically with their light carts and 
tents. Halcyon days were those for the court 
Gypsies. 

Let it be remembered that the County Council 
legend, " No camping allowed," had not yet begun 
to hit you in the eye from among the bramble brakes 
on bits of wayside waste. The rural constable of that 
time had not the conveniences his successor enjoys in 
the bicycle and the village telephone. There were 
farmers who still retained a soft place in their hearts 
for the Gypsy, and many a country squire viewed the 
nomads of the grassy lanes with a kindly eye. If a 
carriage-horse grew restive in passing a roadside 
fire at twilight, up from the hedge-bottom sprang an 
obliging fellow who led the animal safely along and 
thereby won a cheery word from the squire or his 
lady. Even Velveteens would hob-nob with the 
jovial campers on the lord's waste, and, quaffing a 
dram from their black bottle, would toss a rabbit 
into the lap of a Romany mother and go on his way. 



20 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Here and there of course were tiresome believers 
in the hoary policy of harassment and oppression 

"Pack, and be out of this forthwith, 
D'you know you have no business here? 
' No, we hain't got,' said Samuel Smith, 
* No business to be anywhere.' 
So wearily they went away, 
Yet soon were camped in t'other lane, 
And soon they laughed as wild and gay, 
And soon the kettle boiled again." 

Reverting to Tom Petulengro's sobriquet, I con- 
fess it provoked my curiosity not a little. Tom o the 
Gibbet what could the strange "tag" mean? Time 
passed, even a few years, and one day its origin 
came to light during a talk with Ashena Brown, 
Tom's married sister, an elderly Gypsy with a 
furrowed countenance and deep-set eyes which 
flashed with fire as she grew excited in her talk. I 
can see her bowed figure and long jetty curls, as in 
fancy I again stoop to enter the low-ceiled abode 
in the smoky court where I listened to her chatter 
to the persistent accompaniment of a donkey's thump, 
thump, in an adjoining apartment. 

"Wonderful fond o' the County o' Nottingham 
was my people," said the old lady. "They know'd 
every stick and stone along the Trentside, and i' 
the Shirewood (Sherwood), and many's the time 
we've stopped at Five Lane Ends nigh Drinsey 
Nook. Why, my poor dear mammy (Lord rest her 
soul) was once fired at by a foot-pad as she were 
coming outen the public upo' the bank there. The 



CHARACTERS OF THE COURT 21 

man's pistol had nobbut powder in it, for he only 
meant to trash (frighten) her into handing up her 
lova (money), but she had none about her, for her 
last shukora (sixpence) had gone in levina (ale). 
And after that, my mammy allus wore a big diklo 
(kerchief) round her head for to hide her cheek as 
were badly blued by the rascal's powder. 

" Ay, and I minds how my daddy used to make 
teeny horseshoes, knife handles, and netting needles, 
outen the bits o' wood he tskirid. (cut) off the gibbet 
post, and wery good oak it was. Mebbe you's heard 
o' Tom Otter's post nigh to the woods ? Ah, but 
pVaps you's never been tell'd that our Tom was 
born'd under it ? The night my mammy were took 
bad, our tents was a'most blown to bits. The wind 
banged the old irons agen the post all night long, as 
I've heard her say. And when they wanted to name 
the boy, they couldn't think of no other name but 
Tom, for sure as they tried to get away from it, the 
name kept coming back again Tom, Tom, Tom 
till it sort o' dinned itself into their heads. So at last 
my daddy says, ' Let's call him Tom and done with 
it,' and i' time, folks got a-calling him Tom o' the 
Gibbet, and it stuck to him, it did. There, now, I 
must give that here maila (donkey) a bite o' 



summut." 



But I have not done with Tom Otter. 

Here is a story even more " creepy " than the last. 
Ashena is again the speaker. " I' them days I'd 
some delations as did funny things that folks 



22 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

wouldn't never think o* doing nowadays. I'd an 
uncle as used to talk to the Beng ( Devil). If any- 
thing went wrong wi* a hoss, he'd say, * Beng, do this, 
and Beng, do that,' like we talks to the Duvel (God) 
when we says 'ur prayers. But he weren't eddicated, 
you see, he didn't know no better. And whenever 
uncle and aunt used to pass by Tom Otter's gibbet, 
they'd stop and look up at the poor man hanging 
there, and they allus wuserd (threw) him a bit o' 
hawben (food). They couldn't let theirselves go by 
wi'out doing that. 

" And there was a baker from Harby, and when- 
ever he passed by the place he would put a bread 
loaf on to the pointed end of a long rod and shove 
it into that part o 7 the irons where poor Tom's head 
was, and sure enough the bread allus went. The 
baker got hisself into trouble for doing that, as 
I've heard our old people say." 

Commenting on a parallel instance, occurring 
about the year 1779, in which some women were 
wont to throw up to a gibbeted man a bunch 
of tallow candles for him to eat, the Rev. S. 
Baring-Gould, in his Book of Folk-Lore, writes : 
" Obviously the idea was still prevalent that life 
continued to exist in the body after execution." 

In the procession of " characters " issuing from 
the dark court, I see two familiar figures, the parents 
of my Gypsy schoolmate, who would surely have 
arrested even a stranger's gaze. 

Partly from age, and partly from the habit of 



CHARACTERS OF THE COURT 23 

his calling, Plato Smith the tinman stooped some- 
what, yet his legs, which were long in comparison 
with his body, carried him over the ground fast 
enough. A nearer view of the old man's countenance 
revealed certain scars concerning which tales were 
told to his credit as a fighter. True, he had on one 
occasion been worsted by an adversary, for the bridge 
of his nose diverged somewhat from the straight line, 
a record of a telling blow. Always alert, Plato 
looked the picture of spryness when soap and water 
had removed all traces of the workshop, and he had 
donned a green cutaway coat, a bright yellow neck- 
cloth, and a felt "hat of antique shape," high in the 
crown and broad of brim, which was pulled well over 
his eyes whenever he went out. It was whispered 
that none knew better than he how to whistle a horse 
out of a field, but in this art I fancy he had grown 
rusty of late years. To be sure, his long record as a 
poacher had brought him occasional lodgments in 
the local house of detention, yet so ingrained was 
this Gypsy habit that he could hardly refrain from 
chalking his gun-barrel and sallying forth on moon- 
lit nights. 

A riverside incident associated with Sibby's 
father is as fresh in my memory as if it happened 
but yesterday. A stream neither broad nor deep is 
our homely Witham, crawling onward through fenny 
flats to the North Sea. It was here that I learned 
on summer days to pull an oar in an old black coble, 
and to glide steel-shod over the ice in the Christmas 



24 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

holidays. Along a certain reach of the river, I was 
initiated by an elder brother into the mysteries of 
angling on those tranquil evenings when the bold 
perch showed their heads above water, like the fishes 
that listened to St. Anthony's sermon. Now it fell 
upon a day that my brother and I were crossing the 
river by ferry-boat, a few miles outside the city, 
our companions being Plato Smith and an ecclesiastic 
from the minster-close four happy anglers were we. 
At one end of the flat-bottomed ferry-boat stood the 
parson fingering his rod and whistling a lively tune, 
when, in midstream, there was a sudden hitch in the 
chain, flinging the perspiring ferryman upon his face, 
and at the same time precipitating our friend from 
the minster-close headlong into the river. Never 
have I seen a wild duck, or a white-pate coot, disappear 
more cleanly from sight than did our brother of 
" the cloth " into the liquid element. Thanks mainly 
to Gypsy Plato's resourcefulness, he was extricated 
pretty quickly, and we left him in the care of an inn- 
keeper, in whose parlour at dusk we met him in 
borrowed raiment, looking more than usually pallid 
of countenance beneath the broad eaves of our kindly 
host's old-fashioned Sunday " topper" padded to fit 
with a vivid red handkerchief. 

A personality even more striking was Plato's 
consort, Abigail, as you saw her sunning herself 
under the parapet of the Witham bridge hard by 
the " Three Magpies " Inn, her black eyes blinking 
as a gust from the river flapped the loose ends of her 



CHARACTERS OF THE COURT 25 

gay kerchiefs which she wore three or four deep, 
meeting on her bosom in old-time style. Hooked 
like a falcon's beak, her nose drooped over her pursed 
lips towards a prominent chin, giving her a witch- 
like mien. Quadrupled strings of corals encircled her 
wizened neck, and a black velvet bodice bedecked 
with silver buttons, a skirt of bold check pattern, and 
a poke-bonnet formed her customary walking attire.^ 
Often, on her homeward way after her daily round 
with the basket, have I met her puffing a small black 
pipe as she shuffled along our lane. By didakais 
(half-breeds) she was certainly feared, and they 
maintained it was bad luck to meet her first thing 
of a morning, and were known to turn back on seeing 
her in the street. " Her eyes make you feel that 
queer " was a common saying, and it follows that she 
ranked high as a fortune-teller. Seldom a fair 
passed but you met her in the noisy throng, chaffing 
the gawje (gentiles), or surrounded by a group of 
village Johnnies and Mollies eager to have their 
palms read. What a picture she made as she 
stooped to tighten the girths of her shaggy donkey 
at whose head stood the wild, dusky Sibby with a 
spring wind whisking her black locks about her 
cheeks, out on the open road beyond the town, 
for maid and mother were devoted companions on 
many a foray into the villages dotted over Lincoln 
Heath. 

Another conspicuous character of the court was 
a quaint little hunchback, a pedlar by trade, whose 



26 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

sad deformity and resentful temper caused him to 
become the butt of every street gamin's joke. He 
would often be seen in company with Sammy Noble, a 
wooden-legged vendor of firewood. The pair, I regret 
to say, called too frequently at taverns, and more than 
once I have seen them assisted home by kindly police- 
men, or "peelers," as they were then called, who if 
resurrected to-day in their long black coats and 
chimney-pot hats, would surely be taken for nothing 
short of cathedral dignitaries. 

The hero of the Gypsy colony was a tall athletic 
fellow, "Soldier" Tlisti (or Supplistia) Boswell, who 
also bore the nickname of " Jumping Jack," of whom 
I give a reminiscence or two here. 

One day a country squire was driving a pony 
chaise along a lane, and, rounding a corner, he came 
upon a ring of Gypsies roasting hedgehogs. Imagine 
his astonishment to see a slender lad spring up, and, 
running a few yards, take a flying leap clear over 
the pony's back, a feat so pleasing to the squire 
that he called the boy to his side and, presenting 
him with a bright crown-piece, offered so the tale 
runs "to keep him like a gentleman for life." In 
return for which kindness, the Gypsy was expected to 
disown his people, a condition which was not jumped 
at by Jack. 

Tlisti's home in Gypsy Court was one day the 
scene of a singular incident. A fox closely pursued 
by the hounds dashed through the open door of the 
living-room, where before the fire lay the Gypsy 



READING BORROW 27 

asleep and snoring. Reynard in his haste managed to 
sweep the sleeper's face with his brush ; and mighty 
was the yell that burst from Tlisti's throat on being 
thus disturbed, causing the fox to seek refuge in a 
hovel hard by, where the dogs fell upon him. A 
brother of mine who was in the court at the time 
obtained possession of the brush, and the trophy was 
given a conspicuous place in our home. 

In those days it was no unusual course for the 
Gypsy lads to enlist in the Militia, and Tlisti looked 
every inch a soldier as he marched homeward from 
the morning's drill on the common. In play he 
would level his musket at you, and laugh like a merry 
boy, if you caught his spirit and made believe that 
you were wounded. If he was proud of his scarlet 
jacket, his characteristic Gypsy vanity led him 
to glory in shirts of dyes so resplendent that in 
comparison the vaunted multi-coloured coat of 
Joseph would indeed have been thrown into 
the shade. 

The Gypsy spell cast upon me in childhood 
was now reinforced by my discovery of the auto- 
biographical writings of George Borrow. It was in 
my teens that I devoured Lavengro in its original 
three-volume form. By taper-light in an attic bed- 
room at home, or in some hollow on the common 
where the battered race-cards whitened the base 
of the gorse bushes our old common is the annual 
scene of the Lincolnshire Handicap I thrilled over 
the boy Sorrow's encounter with the Gypsies in the 



28 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

green lane at Norman Cross. I followed him through 
the crowded horse-fair at Norwich, and into the 
smoky tents pitched upon Household Heath. But 
the episode which impressed me most of all was the 
fight with the Flaming Tinman. The dramatis per- 
sona of that narrative would pursue me even into my 
dreams. The Romany Rye, with its vivid picture of 
Horncastle Fair, was pleasant enough reading, though 
not nearly so fascinating as Lavengro. Little did I 
think that the coming days were to bring some of 
Borrow's originals within my ken. 

How far Borrow's Gypsies are portraits of indi- 
viduals, and to what extent we are able to identify 
them, are questions which have often been asked. 
Don Jorge would probably have denied the charge 
of individual portraiture, yet there is no doubt that 
he had definite prototypes in his mind's eye when 
penning his narratives. Just as in Guy Mannering, 
Sir Walter Scott portrayed an actual Jean Gordon 
under the name of Meg Merrilies, so we know that 
Borrow has given us his old friend Ambrose Smith 
under the now famous cognomen of "Jasper Petu- 
lengro," a fact made plain by Dr. Knapp in his monu- 
mental work l familiar to all Gypsy students. Shortly 
before his death at Dunbar in October, 1878, 
Ambrose Smith and his wife Sanspirela (a Heron 
before marriage), together with their family, had 
been noticed and befriended by Queen Victoria. To 

1 The Life, Writings, and Correspondence of George Borrow, by 
Prof. Wm. I. Knapp. London, 1899. 




A DAUGHTER OF "JASPER PETULENGRO." 

[ To face p. 28. 



READING BORROW 29 

wit : the following entry in More Leaves from the 
Journal of a Life in the Highlands. 

" August 26th, 1878. At half- past three 
started with Beatrice, Leopold, and the Duchess in 
the landau, and four, the Duke, Lady Ely, General 
Ponsonby, and Mr. Yorke, going in the second 
carriage, and Lord Haddington riding all the way. 
We drove through the west part of Dunbar, which 
was very full, and we were literally pelted with small 
nosegays, till the carriage was full of them ; then for 
some distance past the village of Belheven, Knocken- 
dale Hill, where were stationed in their best attire 
the queen of the gipsies, an oldish woman [Sanspirela] 
with a yellow handkerchief on her head, and a 
youngish, very dark, and truly gipsy-like woman in 
velvet and a red shawl, and another woman. The 
queen is a thorough gipsy, with a scarlet cloak and 
a yellow handkerchief around her head. Men in 
red hunting-coats, all very dark, and all standing 
on a platform here, bowed and waved their 
handkerchiefs." 

In the seventh chapter of The Romany Rye, 
Borrow tells how he one day got his dinner "entirely 
off the body of a squirrel which had been shot the 
day before by a chal of the name of Piramus, who, 
besides being a good shot, was celebrated for his 
skill in playing on the fiddle." 

Nieces of Piramus Gray, whom I know, have 
testified to their uncle's excellence as a marksman, 
and on the authority of Sinfai, a daughter of Piramus, 



30 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

I have been told that Ambrose Smith's praise of 
her father's fiddling was well founded. 

" About a week ago my people and myself" (the 
speaker is Ambrose, i.e. Jasper Petulengro) "were 
encamped on a green by a plantation in the neigh- 
bourhood of a great house. In the evening we were 
making merry, the girls dancing, while Piramus was 
playing on the fiddle a tune of his own composing, 
to which he had given his own name, Piramus of 
Rome, and which is much celebrated amongst our 
people, and from which I have been told one of the 
grand gorgio composers who once heard it has taken 
several hints." 

The gifted fiddler was at that time only a slim 
fellow of twenty-eight summers. Long years after- 
wards, when Piramus was a very old man and I a 
youth of twenty, I remember seeing him in our 
Lincolnshire town of Louth, where he was still 
tapping with his tinker's hammer and fondling his 
violin in his cottage at the River Head. A story 
which the old man never tired of telling was that 
of his brother Jack's heroism. 

Upon a day, many years ago, the children of 
Piramus were boating on a river, and, their craft 
capsizing, all were flung into the stream. Jack, who 
happened to be on the bank, leaped in and saved all 
but two, the oldest and the youngest, who were drowned. 
In his day Piramus had excelled as a fighter, and 
certainly the knotty fists of the aged tinman looked 
as if they had done service in the bruising line. 



READING BORROW 31 

Two visitors who loved to cheer the last days 
of Piramus were his daughter Sinfai and her husband, 
Isaac Heron, who have themselves now passed away. 
Whenever I think of the tall figure of Old Isaac, 
I recall one evening in the summer of 1876, when 
a camp of the Herons lay just outside of Lincoln. 
What appeared to be a Gypsy trial was in progress, 
and I remember the inward thrill on beholding those 
Herons in a ring, chattering like a flock of daws. 
Inside the circle stands a young man, bare-headed, 
stripped of coat and vest, and gesticulating wildly. Now 
he flings his arms about, and now he thrusts his 
fingers through his shaggy black hair. On his brow 
the sweat stands in beads. I can hear the name 
" Wilhelmina," as it comes in a piercing shriek from 
his lips. The old men and women are muttering 
together as calmly they look on. In that throng 
were Isaac and Sinfai, along with some of the older 
Yorkshire Herons, Golias, Khulai, and others. 

In after years I came to know very intimately 
many members of the clan Heron, and among them 
a niece of that weird old hag, Mrs. Herne (to use 
Borrow's spelling of the name), who sent the poisoned 
cake to Lavengro in Mumper's Dingle. 

Having had a romantic interest in the Gypsies 
aroused in me thus early, I naturally looked forward 
to the days when I should leave home and meet tne 
people of the kawlo rat (black blood) in other parts 
of the country. 



CHAPTER III 
NORTH-COUNTRY GYPSIES 

A TYPICAL colliery village in a bleak northern county 
was the scene of my first curacy. Silhouettes of 
ugliness were its black pit buildings, dominated by a 
mountain of burning refuse exhaling night and day 
a poisonous breath which tarnished your brass candle- 
sticks and rendered noxious the "long, unlovely 
street " of the parish. What in the name of wisdom 
induced me to pitch my tent in such a spot, I can 
scarcely say at this distance of time, unless perhaps 
it was a mad desire to rub against something rough 
and rude after having been reared in the drowsy 
atmosphere of pastoral Lincolnshire. 

But if the picture which met my gaze on parochial 
rounds possessed no inspiring feature, you may take 
my word for it that the setting of the picture was 
undeniably charming. Close at hand lay the valley 
of the Wear, by whose brown and amber waters, 
broken by frequent beds of gravel, I used to wander, 
trout-rod in hand, or, wading ankle-deep in bluebells, 
I added to my store of nature-knowledge by observing 
the ways of the wood-folk the tawny squirrel on his 
fir-bough, the red-polled woodpecker hammering at a 



NORTH-COUNTRY GYPSIES 33 

decayed elm-branch, or a lank heron standing stiff as 
a stake on the margin of a pool. 

Across the airy uplands at the back of the village 
runs a road which was ever a favourite walk of mine. 
Away in the distance, Durham's towers lift their grey 
stones, and nearer across the fields, "like a roebuck 
at bay," rises the castle, which together with the lord- 
ship of Brancepeth, Geoffrey, grandson of the Norman 
Gilbert de Nevil, received as dowry with Emma 
Bulmer, his Saxon bride. Right well I came to know 
the weathered walls of Brancepeth Castle, where in 
fancy I used to hear the blare of bugle (not the motor- 
horn), and to a dreamer it is still a place where "the 
swords shine and the armour rings." 

One June day I took the byway over the hills, 
and as I leaned upon a gate looking towards the 
castle, a sound of wheels not far off was heard on the 
gritty roadway, and from round the corner a party of 
Gypsies hove in sight. There were two or three carts 
bearing the name of Watland, with several comely 
people aboard, and lagging in the rear came a pair of 
shaggy colts, whipped up by a shock-headed lad of 
fifteen. When I greeted these wanderers, they drew 
rein and descended from the carts, and standing there 
in the sunshine on the road, they appeared to me 
more than anything like a gang of prehistoric folk 
risen from some tumulus on the moor ; features, 
garments, horses, vehicles all were tinctured with 
Mother Earth's reds and browns picked up from wild 
heaths, clay-pits, and sandy lanes. To my mind the 
3 



34 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

sight was an agreeable variation from the daily pro- 
cession of miners so black with coal-dust that you 
could not for the life of you distinguish Bill from 
Bob, or Jack from Jerry. 

" Are you stopping about here ? " I asked, after 
an exchange of salutations. 

" Yes ; come and see us to-night on top o' the 
moor. We'll be fixed up by then." Turning to his 
wife, the leader of the party said 

" Ay, doesn't he remind you of that young priest 
up yonder by Newcastle, what used to come and take 
a cup of tea with us ? " 

There was something about these Watlands which 
impressed me. Although obviously poor, they were 
light-hearted I had caught the lilt of a song before 
they came in sight. A blithesome spirit of accept- 
ance, a serenity drawn from Nature's bosom was 
theirs, and I could imagine them whistling cheerily 
as they bent their heads to buffeting storms. 

" Take no thought for the morrow," is the Gypsy's 
own philosophy. Were real road-folk ever able to 
tell you the route of the morrow's itinerary ? Break 
of day will be time enough to discuss the next stage 
of the journey. 

Sundown's fires burned redly behind the black 
pines, as I found myself on the moor, a wide expanse 
tracked by little paths worn by passing feet, a haunt 
of whin-chats, grasshoppers, and bright-eyed lizards 
sun- lovers all. 

Knowing the whimsicalities of the Gypsy nature, 



NORTH-COUNTRY GYPSIES 



35 



I had half expected to draw a blank after dawdling 
through the afternoon at Brancepeth Castle. I 
wondered whether my luck would be the same as on 
a past occasion whereon it happened that down a 
green lane I had located a picturesque lot of Gypsies 
who might almost have stepped straight out of a 
Morland canvas, and most anxious I was to secure 
a few snapshots, but unfortunately my camera had 
been left at home. 

" You'll be here all day, I expect?" 

"To be sure we shall, my rai, you'll find us here 
koliko sawla (to-morrow morning), if you's a mind to 
come." 

Preferring to act upon the carpe diem principle, I 
returned with my camera as expeditiously as I could, 
and though but an hour and a half had elapsed, alas ! 
my birds had flown. Homewards I trudged, a joy- 
bereft soul for whom the world had suddenly grown 
empty. 

This leads me to remark that the Gypsies are far 
from easy to photograph. The degree of friendship 
does not enter into the problem. I have known 
strangers to pose readily, while old friends have 
doggedly refused to be "took." Once a friend and 
I had talked one of the reticent Herons into a willing- 
ness to be photographed. Yes, on the morrow he 
would be "took." But with the morrow his mood 
had changed. "No, raia, not for a thousand 
pounds." 

I remember photographing a Gypsy girl under 



36 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

curious conditions. Said I, as she sat upon the 
grass 

" You'll allow me to take a little picture ? Your 
hair is so pretty, and you have a happy face." 

But, no, my words were wasted. Bad luck followed 
that sort of thing, a cousin of hers had died a fortnight 
after being "took." 

" But isn't there some charm for keeping off bad 
luck?" 

Looking thoughtful for a moment, she replied 

"Oh yes, if you'll give me a pair of bootlaces, 
you can lei mi mui (take my face) as many times as 
you kom " (like). 

I had a pair of laces, but they were in my boots. 
Nothing daunted, however, I went off to a shop in 
the village half a mile away, and was soon back again 
presenting the laces to the girl with an Oriental 
salaam. 

Then I got my picture. 

Reverting to the Watlands, I was not disappointed. 
There in a hollow on the moor I found them squatting 
around their fires. Wearied by travel, some of the 
elders had retired for the night. " Dik lestis piro" 
(look at his foot), said one of the boys, pointing to a 
man's -bare * brown foot protruding from beneath a 
tent cover. Within view of Durham's twinkling lights 
we sat, and my tobacco pouch having gone the round, 
we were soon deep in the sayings and doings of the 
Watlands of other days, for when business is off 
Gypsies ever talk of Gypsies. As I looked at these 




A NORTH-COUNTRY GYPSY GIRL. 

Photo, H. Stimpson.\ 




ON THE MOORLAND. 

Photo, Chas. Reid.] {To face p. 36. 



NORTH-COUNTRY GYPSIES 37 

folk, it seemed as though behind them through the dusk 
peered the shades of Romanies of an older, weirder 
sort, who shunned contact with cities and hated 
gawj (non-Gypsies) with a bitterness unknown 
to-day. 

Here is a tale of the old times, obtained from 
grizzled " Durham " Mike Watland, and translated 
more or less into my own words. 

" When I was a little fellow, I used to listen with 
delight to a blood-curdling story which my grand- 
father used to tell as we sat watching the red embers 
die out at night. One time he found himself in a 
strange predicament, and got such a "gliff" as he 
had never experienced before. This of course was 
many years ago, for my grandfather lived to the age 
of ninety-four, and I am one of the third generation 
of a long-lived family of Gypsies. The ways of our 
people were a bit different then. In those days, you 
saw no harm in taking anything you had a fancy for, 
if you could get it. My grandfather was a young 
fellow, and on this particular morning he crossed a 
moor and came to a hamlet containing three or four 
straggling houses, and near one of these stood a cow- 
shed and a low barn. In passing the shed he saw 
hanging there a nice porker which had been killed 
early that morning, and round it was wrapped a sack 
to prevent dogs or cats from gnawing it. All this 
my grandfather observed as he hawked his goods at 
the cottage door, inwardly resolving to pay Mr. Piggy 
a visit by night. All was quiet when at a late hour 



38 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

he re-crossed the moor and arrived at the shed, on 
entering which he put out his hands and felt for the 
pig where he had seen it hanging in the morning, 
but, no, it had been removed. It then occurred to him 
that for greater safety it might have been carried into 
the low-roofed barn, so in he went and felt all along 
the cross-beam. He was right. Sure enough the 
pig's face struck cold to his hand. Quickly he cut 
the rope, and, slinging piggy across his shoulder, was 
soon making his way back to the camping-place. 
But crossing that rough land with a heavy load was 
no easy task, and you may be sure that the farther 
he went the heavier it became. When descending a 
slope, he caught his foot in a hole, and down he 
tumbled with his burden. Now as he arose and laid 
hold of the rope in order to hoist the pig once more, 
the moon came out from behind a cloud, and revealed 
the face of a dead man! For a moment he stood 
mesmerized by fright, then sick at heart he pro- 
ceeded to acquaint the nearest constable with the 
fact. The corpse was identified as that of a 
feeble-minded cottager who had hanged himself 
in the barn. 

One day I was exploring the city of Durham, for 
my early life in Lincoln had imbued me with a love 
of old architecture, and the nave of Durham minster 
profoundly gratified my love of the sombre, when, lo, 
just over the way, I saw a weather-beaten vado (living- 
van), and near it was the owner, looking up and down 
the street as if expecting someone to appear. Cross- 



NORTH-COUNTRY GYPSIES 39 

ing the road, I greeted the Gypsy, who turned out to 
be one of the Winters, a North-Country family to 
whom has been applied (not without reason) the 
epithet "wild," and I remembered how Hoyland, 
in his Historical Survey of the Gypsies, had 
written 

" The distinguished Northern poet, Walter Scott, 
who is Sheriff of Selkirkshire, has in a very obliging 
manner communicated the following statement 
'. . . some of the most atrocious families have 
been extirpated. I allude to the Winters, a Nor- 
thumberland clan, who, I fancy, are all buried by 
this time/" 

But Sheriff Scott was wrong. 

The Winters had only changed their haunts, and 
on being driven out of the Border Country had moved 
southward. 

As I stood chatting with Mr. Winter, his hand- 
some wife came up with a hawking-basket on her 
arm. I shall always remember her in connection with 
a story she told me. 

" One day I was sitting on a bank under a garden 
hedge. It was a hot day and I was very thirsty. 
I said aloud, ' Oh, for a drink of beer.' Just then 
a voice came over the hedge, a nice, clear, silvery voice 
it was, like as if an angel from heaven was a-talking 
to me ' You shall have one, my dearie/ And in a 
minute or two a kind lady came down with a big jug 
of beer. How I did bless that lady for her kindness 
to a poor Gypsy, and I drank the lot. About a month 



40 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

afterwards, I heard of the death of that lady, and I 
vowed to myself and to the rawnts muli (lady's spirit) 
that I would never touch another drop of beer as long 
as I lived, and I never have done and never will no 



more." 



CHAPTER IV 

MY POACHING PUSSY A ROMANY BENISON 
MY FIRST TASTE OF HEDGEHOG 

MY clerical life has been spent for the most part in 
green country places, chiefly amid wind-swept hills. 
Consequently one has learned to delight in the crea- 
tures that run and fly, the wild things of wood and 
wold and brookside, and this love of Nature and her 
children has never left me ; it has companioned with 
me throughout my wanderings. Give me now an 
elevated crest commanding a broad sweep of field 
and forest, with the swift rush of keen air over the 
furze bushes, a footpath among the thorn-scrub where 
the finches chatter, the sedgy bank of a moorland 
stream from which I can hear the " flup " of the trout, 
or the call of the peewits somersaulting in the sun- 
light : simple pleasures are these, yet they bring a 
world of happiness to a man who loves the wilds 
more than cities, and the windy wold better than the 
stifling street. 

Contrary to the popular notion that Lincolnshire 
is no more than a dreary expanse of black fenland 
soil intersected by drains of geometric straightness, 

I may point out that there are two well-defined hill 

41 



42 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

ranges extending almost throughout the county the 
chalk and greensand Wolds, and the limestone 
" Heights," running parallel after the manner of the 
duplex spina of Virgil's well-bred horse. 

On the western edge of the Wolds, overlooking 
a richly varied landscape, nestles the hamlet where I 
made my first home after marriage, and the country 
lying around our hilltop parsonage was an ideal 
hunting-ground for a naturalist. Borne on the rude 
March gales the wild pipe of the curlew greeted the 
ear as you met the buffeting gusts along the un- 
frequented ridgeways, and over winter snows an 
observant eye might trace the badger's spoor. On 
summer evenings when the far-away minster of 
Lincoln was a purple cameo upon an amber ground, 
and the shadows creeping out of the woods began 
to spread over the hills, a brown owl would sail by 
on noiseless wings, or Reynard might be seen trot- 
ting across the sheep-nibbled sward towards the 
warren below the clustering firs. 

Rambling along the wold one gleaming autumn 
afternoon, my attention was attracted by the rapid 
movements of some diminutive, fluffy-looking creature, 
which to a casual saunterer might have been a wren 
or a hedgesparrow ; but after having stood quietly 
for a moment or two, a dark velvety ball of fur 
darted towards me, and in a most confiding manner 
ran over my boots, and sniffed at the stout ash-plant 
which I invariably carry with me along the lanes. 
For some time I stood watching the unconscious 



MY POACHING PUSSY 43 

play of this tiny mouse. At last, however, I made a 
move and my wee friend fled like a thought to his 
retreat in the hedge. 

On another occasion, I was seated in my old oak 
stall in the village church. It was a harvest festival, 
and a college friend was in the midst of his sermon, 
when I distinctly felt something nibbling at the hem 
of my cassock. It was a plump grey mouse, and on 
moving my foot I saw him speed down the aisle like 
an arrow. As fortune had it, the ladies in the 
front pew, being properly rapt in the eloquent dis- 
course, escaped the disquieting vision of my church 
mousie. 

These mice incidents, with a few more like them, 
were strung together and dispatched to the Pall Mall 
Budget, edited at that time by Mr. Charles Morley. 
My literary effort was duly printed, with pleasing 
sketches from the pencil of that peerless lover of 
pussies, Mr. Louis Wain, the then president of the 
Cat Club. 

It was in the same parish that I had a favourite 
pussy, "Tony" by name, who would daily follow me 
to church, and wait at the vestry door for my re- 
appearance after matin-prayers. But, alas, he acquired 
the poaching habit, a sure path to destruction, as I 
learned one day to my sorrow in passing the keeper's 
gibbet at the end of a woodland glade. 

One of my rambles with this pussy I recall quite 
vividly. One afternoon I set off across the wold 
intending to make pastoral visits upon a few outlying 



44 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

cottagers. I had got about half a mile from home, 
and, looking round, there was Tony just at my heels. 
I strolled along, and presently heard a squealing, and 
out of a clump of nettles came my cat dragging a 
plump rabbit. It was dead, and the cat, panting 
after his effort, looked up at me, as much as to say, 
"You're not going to leave it here, are you?" 
Whereupon I remembered the saying of an old Gypsy, 
"If you had a dog that brought a hare or a rabbit 
to your feet, wouldn't it be flying in the face of 
providence to refuse to take it ? " So, picking up the 
rabbit, I put it in one of the roomy pockets of my 
long-tailed coat, and went on. The cat persisted in 
following. By and by, we drew near to a disused 
quarry, where the cat captured a second rabbit, which 
went into the other pocket of my long coat. By 
this time I began to feel the charm of the sport of 
that gentleman who sallies forth on "a shiny night at 
the season of the year." The pastoral visits had 
now perforce to be abandoned, but on turning my 
face homeward, oh, horrors ! there, not a hundred 
yards away, was a man on horseback, accompanied 
by a dog, and, seeing them, my cat scooted along a 
gulley up the hill, and was gone. / could not dis- 
appear quite so easily. However, as I did not 
altogether fancy a strange dog sniffing at my coat- 
tails, I made a detour, and the horseman passed a 
good way below me on the slope. You should have 
seen my wife smile as I plumped two nice bunnies on 
the kitchen table. We observed that those rabbits 



A ROMANY BENISON 45 

tasted quite as good as any you purchase at a game- 
dealer's stall in the market. 

Gypsies, as all the world knows, are fond of the 
hedgehog. 

They do not keep him as a pet. They eat him, 
and roast hedgehog accompanied with sage and 
onions is a dish for an episcopal table. I never see 
one of these prickly fellows without being reminded 
of several experiences. 

Once in passing along a town street on my way 
to the Archdeacon's Visitation, I noticed not far 
ahead of me an elderly woman stepping out with a 
swinging stride. Her face I could not see, but she 
wore a tattered shawl about her shoulders, and her 
black hair was done up in small plaits like a horse's 
mane at fair-time. " Gypsy," said I to myself, and, 
hastening alongside, I greeted her in the Romany 
tongue. The words had a magical effect. Instantly 
she wheeled round and scanned me up and down 
with a puzzled air. There before her, wearing an 
orthodox collar and black coat, stood a parson who 
nevertheless talked like a Gypsy. Now in common 
with some ladies of high degree, nearly all Gypsy 
women enjoy a whiff of tobacco smoke. This old 
lady, however, declined a gift of the weed on the 
ground that "the brantitus " had troubled her of late, 
but she gladly stepped with me into a snug coffee- 
house close by, where over our steaming cups we con- 
versed aloud in the Gypsy language, to the complete 



46 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

mystification of the prim-looking manageress whose 
curiosity kept her hovering near. What that good 
woman's thoughts were, I have not the faintest idea. 
I only know that she seemed amazed at the sight of 
a Gypsy in easy intercourse with a simple-looking 
cleric who appeared to be enjoying himself. Both, 
too, were speaking a queer-sounding language under- 
standable to each other, but utterly incomprehensible 
to the listener. What could it all mean ? Well, 
Gypsies at anyrate are not without a sense of humour ; 
indeed, no one enjoys a bit of fun more than they. 
Taking in the situation at a glance, my Gypsy com- 
panion gave me a sly look, and, waving her hand 
playfully, exclaimed, " Never mind him, missis, he's 
nobbut an Irishman, and can't a boy and his mither 
talk a word or two in their own language ? " 

On my taking leave of the Gypsy mother, she 
bestowed this benison upon me : " The Lord love 
you, my son, and may you always have a big hedgehog 
in your mouth." 

Hedgehog, as I have said, is a dainty dish with 
Gypsies, and the old woman was no more than kindly 
wishing that there might ever be a titbit ready to 
slip into my mouth. 

I am not likely to forget the occasion of my first 
actual taste of this Romany delicacy. 

Charley Watland (brother of " Durham" Mike), 
a wide traveller, had told me much of the delights 
of a certain old-fashioned Midland horse-fair, con- 



MY FIRST TASTE OF HEDGEHOG 47 

eluding one of his glowing descriptions by inviting 
me to meet him in mid-September at this fair. Thus 
it came to pass that I set out one fine morning with 
my face towards the distant hills of Leicestershire. 
Of the day-long journey, I am now concerned only 
with its closing scenes. Pushing up a long, tiring 
hill, I spied over a hedge in the dusk two or three 
vdd (living-vans), some low tents with flickering 
fires before them, and dark figures moving to and 
fro. With what energy I had left, I climbed over 
a fence and made straight for the Gypsy fires. A 
tall Romanitshel, leaning against a tree-bole, was 
singing snatches of a song in which I caught the 
words Beng (Devil) and puri-dai (grandmother), 
but, on seeing a stranger approach, he ceased. 
The Romany greeting, which I flung on the 
evening air, caused a stoutish woman to thrust 
her head from the doorway of the nearest caravan. 

" He's one o' the Lees, I'll be bound. He 
talks like 'em. He's come back from over the 
pdni" (water). Which, being interpreted, meant 
that I was a "lag's" boy returned from over-sea. 
The idea tickled me so that I laughed outright. 

Beside the fire which was burning brightly at the 
feet of the tall Gypsy man, children and dogs were 
rolling over one another in perfect happiness, and 
at my elbow a lad, peering into my face, exclaimed 

"I'll swop diklos (kerchiefs) with you, rai" 

" No, you won't," I replied ; " mine's silk and 
yours cotton." 



48 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

"Pen mandi, daw" (Tell me, friend), I inquired 
of the tall man under the trees, " Is Charley 
Watland here this time?" 

" Keka, mi pal, the puro's poger& his hero 
(No, my brother, the old man's broken his leg) 
at Peterborough. He's got kicked by a hoss, and 
he's in the infirmary." This was bad news, for 
I had hoped to meet my friend here and spend 
the night with him. 

A little way across the fields the lights of a 
village gleamed through the darkness, and, making 
my way thither, I sought for a resting-place, but 
in vain. Every available bed was already engaged. 
In and out of the taverns passed horse-dealers and 
rollicking Gypsies. Groups of Romany lads and 
lasses stood talking in the lane. Burly women 
with foaming jugs bumped against you in the 
shadows. Between the barking of dogs and the 
whinnying of horses, a word or two of Romany 
floated now and then to one's ear. 

Tired after my day in the open air, I turned 
into a by-lane to think matters over. A gentle 
wind rustled the leaves on the trees, and on the 
eastern horizon a growing light told of approaching 
moon-rise. I sat on a fence and watched Old 
Silver appear above the hills. Away from the 
village, I began to notice the sights and sounds 
of night. An owl on velvety wing fluttered by. 
Little birds cheeped in the thicket behind me. 
Field-mice squeaked in the grass on the bank. I 




ROUND THE CAMP-FIRE. 



Photo, F. R. Hinkins.} 




A CHILD OF THE CARAVAN. 

Photo, Fred Shaw.} {To face p. 48. 



MY FIRST TASTE OF HEDGEHOG 49 

began to feel cut off from the world. What was 
I to do? Walk about all night? Make a bed on 
the bracken in a neighbouring wood ? Renew my 
search for a more civilized couch in one or other 
of the adjacent villages ? Tramp down the long 
dusty road to a small town some few miles off, 
where I knew of more than one snug hostelry ? 
Why indeed? Was I not out for adventure? I 
resolved to ask the Gypsies to give me a bed. 
Therefore, without further ado, I slipped through 
a gap in the hedge, and made tracks for the Gypsy 
fires already mentioned. 

11 Hello, here's the rai back again." It was the 
tall Gypsy's wife who spoke. My tale was soon 
told, and I was promptly offered a corner under 
Arthur West's tilt-hood placed tent-wise on the 
ground. Now that my mind was at ease, I sat me 
down by the fire near which a savoury smell of 
supper arose. It was astonishing how quickly we 
cleaned the bones of several bird-like objects set 
before us. 

" Did you ever taste of these little things 
afore?" 

"Well, whatever they are, I shouldn't mind if 
they had been larger." 

At this they all laughed aloud. 

" Dawdi, the rai doesn't jin he's kaw'd 
hotshwitshi" (Fancy, the gentleman doesn't know 
he's eaten hedgehog). 

So this was the much-vaunted Romany dish, 
4 




50 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

nor did it disappoint me. The blended flavours of 
pheasant and sucking-pig are still present to my 
memory as I recall that moonlit meal washed 
down by a jug of brown ale. 

On awaking next morning, I realized the truth 
of the saying, " Gypsies get something straight 
from heaven which is never known to people who 
sleep in stuffy houses and get up to wash in warm 



water." 



When I recall awakenings in lodgings with 
the bedclothes, valances, curtains, falderals, anti- 
macassars, all heavy with suggestions of humanity, 
I marvel no more at the Gypsy's choice of a bed 
of crisp bracken or sweet straw, with maybe a 
wisp of dried river-mint or wild thyme mingled 
with it. 

Walking bare-foot in the dewy grass with the 
Gypsy children, we made our toilet together in the 
open, with the light airs of the wold playing about 
us. Then came breakfast by the wood fire, and 
during the meal my host's donkey affectionately 
put his cold nose on the bare of my neck. In 
a little while we stood on the common where the 
fair was in full swing, and, strolling among the 
horses and dealers, I spied a curly-haired son 
of old Horace Boswell, just arrived from Leicester, 
who found time to tell me a funny tale about his 
father. 

Since early morn Horace had been riding a 
lively horse, and, dismounting, handed the reins to 



MY FIRST TASTE OF HEDGEHOG 51 

a pal and walked a few yards into the fair. As 
he was looking about him, he lighted upon 
George Smith of Coalville, who, arching his bushy 
eyebrows and stroking his great beard, stood 
shocked at the sight of a Gypsy walking unsteadily. 
As a matter of fact, Horace's legs had not yet 
thrown off the cramp of many hours' riding on a 
skittish animal. When solemn George opened his 
mouth it was to ask a question 

" Do you drink beer, my good man ? " 

" Well, my kind gentleman/' replied Horace, 
" afore I answers that question, I'd reely like to know 
whether it's a simple inquiry or an inwitation." 

This was too much for the worthy philan- 
thropist who, turning swiftly on his heel, went his 
way swinging his Gladstone-bag and gingham. 

About the middle of the afternoon I sought 
out my hospitable friend Arthur West before quitting 
the fair, and, looking me straight in the eyes, he said, 
"Are you quite sure that you have enough lova 
(money) to see you home ? For if I thought you 
hadn't, I should chuck a handful on the drom (road) 
and leave it for you to pick up." 

How shall we ever get you to understand the 
spirit of these wanderers ; you who coddle yourselves 
in hot, close rooms ; who are wedded to the life of 
a mill-horse jogging in convention's dusty track, 
and whose souls are imprisoned within the dimensions 
of a red-ochred flower-pot ? 



CHAPTER V 
A GYPSY BAPTISM ROMANY NAMES 

QUITTING the Wolds, described in the preceding 
chapter, I took up my abode in a large village 
situated on Lincoln Heath, where I had further 
opportunities of pursuing my Gypsy studies round 
about home. 

In a sinuous turfy lane which ran behind our 
house, the Gypsies would pitch their camp from 
time to time, and one of these wandering families 
conceived the notion of renting a cottage in the 
village. In my mind's eye I can see that little house, 
wearing a lost, desolate air. It stood in a walled-in 
yard, where loose stones lay strewn, and the ridge 
of the red-tiled roof sunken in the middle threatened 
a collapse. 

Unaccustomed to sleeping under a roof, and a 
rickety one at that, the Gypsies fled in alarm from 
their chamber one wild, boisterous night, fearing 
lest the chimney-pots should tumble in upon them. 
Near by stood their green caravan, and snugly 
abed therein they felt secure from all harm. Next 
day a timid rap came at the Rectory door, and a 
black-eyed girl whispered in my ear that her mother 



A GYPSY BAPTISM 53 

would like the baby, a few hours old, to be christened. 
This I did, and a day or two afterwards I was 
agreeably surprised to meet the Gypsy mother with 
her baby taking the fresh air on the high road. 
What mother in any other rank of life could carry 
her child in the open so soon after its birth ? 

" It's a way we have," said Walter Heron, when 
explaining to me that a plate, cup, and saucer are 
set apart for the mother's use during the four weeks 
following the birth of a child. The vessels are then 
destroyed in accordance with an old puerperal tabu. 
This custom is still observed in all good Romany 
families. 

Tom Lee, an English Gypsy, broke up a loaf 
of bread and strewed the crumbs around his tent 
when his son Bendigo was born, for some of the 
old-time Gypsies hold the notion that bread pos- 
sesses a protective magic against evil influences. 
Seated one day in the tent of Bendigo Lee on 
the South Shore at Blackpool, I questioned him 
about his father's practice. " In the days when I 
was born," he replied, "there were people that 
could do hurt by looking at you, and I s'pose my 
dadus (father) sprinkled the crumbs lest any evil 
person going by should cast harm upon me." 
A distinct survival of the belief in the evil eye. 

Romany "fore," or Christian names, 1 are often 
peculiar, and afford much material for reflection. 

1 See list of masculine and feminine names, pp. 299-302. 



54 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Whence come such names as Khulai, Maireni, 
Malini, Mori, Shuri? In these names Sir Richard 
Temple discerns Indian forms or terminations. The 
Anglo-Romany names, Fenela, Siari, and Trenit, 
have been identified by Mr. H. T. Crofton with 
the Continental forms, Vennel, Cihari, and Tranitza, 
the last being a common feminine Gypsy name in 
Hungary. 

Euphonious and out-of-the-way names are ir- 
resistible to the Gypsy. 

"What metal is that box made of, sir?" asked 
a Gypsy mother on seeing a gentleman's cigarette- 
case. 

" Aluminium," was the reply. 

" What a beautiful name for my gell's baby ! " 

According to Charles G. Leland, a Gypsy father, 
hearing two gentlemen talking about Mount Vesuvius, 
was greatly impressed by the name, and consulted 
with them as to the propriety of giving it to his 
little boy. 

Gypsies dislike to be addressed by their peculiar 
" fore " or Christian names in the presence of 
gawj ; hence to the postman, Enos become Amos, 
Femi Amy, and Poley George, and so on. As 
a rule, you find a Gypsy is unwilling to impart his 
true name to a stranger. May not this reluctance 
be due to a lingering subconscious belief that the 
possession of one's true name would enable a stranger 
to work harmful spells upon the owner ? 

Time was when the belief was widely spread 



ROMANY NAMES 55 

that the utterance of a man's true name drew him 
to the speaker. Medieval records are full of 
legendary accounts of spirits who were summoned 
by the casual pronunciation of their names. Until 
lately there were peasants in the North of Ireland 
and Arran who absolutely refused to tell their names 
to a stranger because such knowledge, it was be- 
lieved, would enable him to "call" them, no matter 
how far he was from them, and whenever he cared 
to do so. They also believed that any spell worked 
on the written name would have the same effect as 
if worked on the owner. 

It is a fact that not a few Gypsy surnames are 
identical with those of ancient noble families, e.g. 
Boswell, or Bosville (sometimes contracted to Boss), 
Gray, Heron, Hearne, or Herne, Lees, Lo veils, 
and Stanleys. It has been surmised, by way of 
explanation, that the Gypsies soon after their arrival 
in this country adopted the surnames of the owners 
of the estates on which particular hordes usually 
encamped, or the names of those landed families who 
afforded protection to the persecuted wanderers. 

Speaking of the Gypsies, Gilbert White of 
Selborne, says, " One of these tribes calls itself by 
the noble name of Stanley." This mention of the 
Stanleys reminds me that once on Gonerby Hill, 
near Grantham, on the Great North Road, I met a 
young man who looked like a mechanic out of work, 
yet his bearing was that of a Gypsy. In our talk 
he admitted that he was of Romany blood. He had 



56 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

been a horseman in Lord George Sanger's circus, 
but something had gone wrong and he was thrown 
out of employ. At first he gave his name as 
Richardson (not a Gypsy name), but he afterwards 
told me that his grandfather, a Stanley, had been 
transported, for which reason the family assumed the 
name of Richardson. 



CHAPTER VI 
I MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE 

FOR several years I was curate-in-charge of a parish 
abutting upon the Great North Road, and during 
that time I used to meet many Gypsies on the famous 
highway. There passed along it members of the 
Bos well clan, making their way from Edinburgh to 
London ; the dark Herons, after spending the 
summer months in the Northern Counties, came by 
this route to their winter quarters at Nottingham ; a 
lawless horde of Lovells also knew this road well. 
Sometimes these Gypsies would turn aside from the 
dusty highway for a brief rest in the green lanes across 
an adjacent river, but they rarely tarried longer than a 
day. With one of these Gypsies I became intimately 
acquainted, and this is how our friendship began. 

One May morning I had been strolling along the 
aforesaid road, and, turning towards the river where 
it is spanned by an old mill-bridge, I loitered there in 
expectation of the arrival of a pack of otter-hounds, 
visitors from another county ; for complaints had 
long been accumulating to the effect that Lutra had 
been making depredations among the fish, game, and 
poultry all along the reaches of the river. Adjoining 

57 



58 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

the bridge was a watermill where often might be 
heard the humming of the great wheel and the roar 
of foam-flecked water. Mellowed by time's gentle 
touch, the irregular outlines of the building seemed 
verily as if arranged to be imaged on canvas ; timbers 
and weathered stones were everywhere mottled with 
rosettes of orange and grey lichen, and when the 
sunbeams warmed the tints and tones of the old mill 
into rich masses of colour you experienced a thrill 
which made you wish to repeat it. 

A little way off, our river was crossed by a shallow 
ford rarely used by vehicular traffic, which mostly 
passed by the bridge. Once a year, however, the 
miller closed the bridge in order to preserve a right- 
of-way through his yard, and on this occasion toll 
was taken of every cart, while a free way was allowed 
by the ford. But the astute fellow usually arranged 
that the closing of the bridge should coincide with a 
market day at the nearest town, and he would choose 
a time when the river was swollen by flood-water 
beyond its ordinary dimensions, thus rendering the 
ford a dangerous crossing. 

After waiting awhile, a murmur of deep voices 
broke upon my ear, as with a rush and a splash about 
a score of bonny, rough-coated dogs burst into view 
round a bend in the stream. It was not in my plans 
to follow the dogs, so when the pack and its excited 
companions had gone by, I proceeded leisurely along 
a lane leading towards the green uplands looking 
clown upon the valley. 



I MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE 59 

A little way up the lane I came upon two dark- 
featured lads, and, going up to one of them who was 
tacking strips of straw-plait upon the top of a three- 
legged table, I said 

" You seem very busy this morning." 

" We must do something for a living." 

" You're certainly a good hand at your business. 
How long are you stopping here ? " 

" That's more nor I know." (This with a shrewd 
look at me from top to toe.) " Ax grandfather, up 
yonder wi' the bosses." 

Higher up the lane, and almost hidden by out- 
lying tangles of bramble and wild-rose, sat a man of 
sixty or more, puffing tobacco smoke from his black 
clay, and near him on the wayside three horses ripped 
the tender grasses. 

Looking up at me with a start, the man said 

" Well, you fairly took me by surprise, sir. For 
a wonder I never heard you a-coming. I must be 
getting deaf." 

" Remanitskel?" (Gypsy) I queried. 

" Avail, mi tshavo " (Yes, my son), he replied ; 
"you's been among our people, that's plain, or you 
wouldn't talk like you do. Mebbe you's heard tell o 1 
Jonathan Boswell that's me. But I must be off 
now with these here hosses to the smithy. We's 
beshm akai (stopping here) for a day or two. Our 
wagon's in the kitshima (tavern) yard just past the 
mill." 

" Well, Jonathan, I want you to bring one of 



60 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

those Gypsy-tables the boys are making to my place 
this afternoon ; don't fail to come. I shall dik avri 
for tiro mui about trin ora " (look out for your face 
about three o'clock). 

" Right, I'll be there, raw" 

In due course the Gypsy presented himself at my 
door in company with his two grandsons, and among 
them they carried three tables. I had only asked for 
one, but Jonathan was such a "find" that I gladly 
purchased all the articles and bade the little party 
follow me into the garden. The two grandsons 
displayed a remarkable knowledge of trees, which 
they were able to identify not merely by their foliage, 
but by the character of their bark. Wild birds they 
knew by note and flight as well as by plumage. 
There is so much a Gypsy boy knows about nature. 

How meagre, by contrast, is the information 
possessed by the average County Council schoolboy ; 
which reminds me that I was once giving an object- 
lesson to a class of fifth-standard children attending 
our village school. We were seated on a river bank 
whose insect life and botanical treasures I had been 
pointing out to an interested group of listeners. As 
nothing had been said about the scaly denizens of 
the stream, I concluded my talk by putting a 
question to the entire class. 

" Hands up, those who can tell me the names of 
any fish to be found in this river." 

Quickly a dozen pink palms were uplifted, and I 
could see that several lips were bursting with in- 



I MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE 61 

formation. Imagine my surprise when I was informed 
''red-herring, sprats, and mackerel." 

On the following evening I went across the fields 
to see my friends by the watermill. The amber light 
of sunset was falling upon green hedge and rippling 
river. From a thorn bush a nightingale jug-jugged 
deliciously. There was poetry in the air. Nor was 
it dispelled by the discovery that my friends had 
drawn their "house on wheels" into the grassy lane 
leading down to the ford. 

Seated on a mound of sand, Jonathan was 
chatting with a stranger who had the looks of an 
Irishman. I joined them, but no sooner had I 
dropped a word or two of Romany than the stranger 
arose, saying, "I don't understand your talk, so I'd 
better be going." He then left us, and, seeing he 
had gone away, old Fazenti, Jonathan's wife, stepped 
down from the living-wagon, and our discourse 
became considerably enlivened by her presence. 

Speaking of dukerm (fortune-telling), she said, 
" It'll go on while the world lasts," which was Fazzy's 
way of saying that the credulous will be in the world 
after the poor have left it. " It's the hawking-basket 
that gi's us our chance, don't you dik (see) ? I takes 
care never to be without my licence, and the muskro 
(policeman) would have to get up wery early to catch 
old Fazzy asleep. Did I ever have any mulo-mas ? 1 

1 Mulo-mas^ the flesh of an animal which has died without the aid of 
a butcher. " Isn't what the dirt Duvel (God) kills as good as anything 
killed by a masengro ? " (butcher). 



62 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Many's the time I've had a bit. In spring, when 
lambs are about, that's the time for mulo-mas. 

" A good country for hedgehogs is this, but we 
don't eat 'em in the spring. The back end of the 
year is the best time for 'em ; there's a bit of flesh on 
'em then. When you find one, if he's rolled up in 
a ball, you rub his back with a stick right down his 
spine, and he'll open out fast enough. Then you hit 
him hard on the nose, and he's as dead as a door 
nail. The old way of cooking him was to cover him 
with clay and bake him in the fire. When he was 
cooked you tapped the clay ball, and the prickles 
and skin came away with the clay. Nowadays we 
burn down the bristles, then shave 'em off, draw and 
clean him and roast him on a spit before a hot fire. 
He's wery good with puvengris (potatoes), sage, and 
onions. Bouris (snails) are good to eat in winter. 
You get them in a hard frost from behind old stumps 
of trees. You put salt on 'em and they make fine 
broth. Wery strengthening is bouri-zimen " (snail 
broth). 

While we were conversing, Jonathan's grandsons 
passed by with a lurcher. 

"A useful dog, that, I should think," said I. 

" Kushto yek st dova for shushiaw and kanengri " 
(A good one is that for rabbits and hares), replied the 
old man. " I minds well the day I bought him off 
a man with a pot-cart as was stopping along with us. 
We'd got leave from a farmer to draw into a lane 
running between some clover fields, and we were 



I MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE 63 

just sitting down to a cup o' tea when a keeper comes 
along and says 

" ' I'm afraid some of you fellows have been up to 
mischief, because there's a hare in a snare along this 
hedge.' 

" ' Then it's somebody else's snare, not ours,' I 
says, 'for we's only just got here, and yon farmer 
as give us leave to stop will tell you the same if you 
ask him.' 

" ' Well, see here/ says the keeper, ' there's a 
rabbit for your pot. Keep a sharp look out, and 
mind you let me know if anybody comes to fetch that 
hare. There's my cottage up yonder/ 

" Then he went away, and would you believe it, a 
bit after the moon got up we see a man coming 
across the field and straight to that snare he went, 
and as he was taking the hare out of it, there was a 
tap on his shoulder from the keeper. Now, who do 
you think the man was that got catched so nicely ? 
It was the willage policeman. And that night I 
bought that here jukel (dog), I did, and me and the 
dog had a fine time among the shushiaw (rabbits) 
after the keeper and the policeman had gone 
away. About a week after, the muskro (policeman) 
had to appear in court, and a wery poor figure he 
cut afore the pukinger (magistrate). You see, he 
was catched proper, and couldn't get out of it 
no-how. The pot-cart man and me had to go up 
as witnesses." 

11 You'll know this countryside well, I expect. 



64 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Do you ever spend the night in Dark Lane, as I 
believe they call it ? " 

" One time we used to stop there a lot, rai, but 
they won't let us now. How'smiver, we hatsh odoi 
(encamp there) for a r&ti (night) at odd times, spite 
of everybody." 

This remark was accompanied by a half-smothered 
chuckle from Jonathan, who, while filling his pipe 
from my tobacco pouch, seemed to be ruminating 
upon a reminiscence which presently came out. 

The said lane lies pleasantly between a neighbour- 
ing village and the river, and about the month of 
May the grass down there begins to be sweet, but 
woe to the Gypsies whom the constable finds en- 
camped thereabouts. 

Jonathan went on to tell how he and his party 
once passed a night very happily there when the 
may-buds were bursting. And this is how it was 
done. 

In a wayside tavern the Gypsy had heard it 
whispered that the County Police had gone to the 
town for the annual inspection, which involved a 
temporary absence of the constables from their re- 
spective localities. But, to make quite sure of this, 

on arriving at the village of F , Jonathan sought 

out a certain cottage and thus addressed himself to 
a constable's wife 

" Is the sergeant at home ?" 

"No, my man. What do you want him for ? " 

"A pony of mine has gone astray, and I want 



I MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE 65 

him to let me know if he hears anything about it. 
Perhaps he'll be at home to-night ? " 

"He won't, I'm afraid." 

"Thank you, ma'am." 

Thus Jonathan camped down Dark Lane with 
impunity. 

One morning shortly after my meeting with 
Jonathan, a Gypsy mother called at my Rectory. 
She led her black-eyed, five-year-old boy by the 
hand. Brown as a berry, the handsome little fellow 
would have served admirably for an artist's model, 
and his mother had many pleasing touches of Gypsy 
colour about her attire. From beneath a bright 
red diklo (kerchief) which she wore, a few black 
curls straggled out on to her forehead, and a 
gay bodice showed under her green shawl. The 
woman said that she had heard so much of me 
from her father Jonathan Bos well that she had 
come on purpose to see me. I invited her into 
the kitchen, and over bread and cheese and ale we 
chatted. 

" Ain't we all delated, raia, come to think of it ? 
There's a Man above as made us all." 

Quickly I made friends with the little boy, and 
at my request his mother afforded our household no 
small delight by leaving her son with us for the day. 
The tiny lad was entirely unaccustomed to house 
ways, and his behaviour was a study. On seeing a 
Christmas card with the Christ-child lying in the 
manger guarded by a white-winged angel, he ex- 
5 



66 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

claimed, "I know what that is" (pointing to the 
heavenly visitant) ; " we often sees 'em flying over the 
fields. Its a seagull." 

With great readiness he joined in the games ot 
my children, such as shuttlecock and battledore, 
skipping, and the like. Sitting at a table for a meal 
was evidently a novel experience for the little chap, 
and it was amusing to see him slip off his chair and 
squat on the hearthrug, putting his plate on his knee 
as though a Gypsy boy ought not to do exactly as the 
gawj, and he used his fingers freely in lieu of fork 
and spoon. After the meal we sat round the fire, 
and talked of his life on the road. 

" I found a hen's nest in the hedge-bottom, this 
morning, I did." 

" Any eggs in ? " I asked. 

-Yes; three." 

" Did you take them ? " 

" No, I left 'em till there was more." 

Then I told him fairy tales of green woods, 
ghosts, and goblins, and he became excited, springing 
once or twice from his chair, as if he would like to 
have danced about the room. 

" Oh, I knows a lot about mu/os " (ghosts), said 
the little Gypsy. "There's different sorts milk- 
white 'uns and coal-black 'uns. When we're abed at 
nights, they come screaming round our wagon and 
flapping at the windows. My daddy gets his gun 
and shoots, then we hears 'em no more for a bit. 
But they are soon back agen, and I'm that frit 



I MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE 67 

when I hears 'em, I can't sleep. When mammy's 
going out with her basket of a morning, and daddy's 
gone somewhere to see about a hoss, I daren't go 
far into the big wood agen our stopping-place, 'cos 
of the black pig what lives there. Daddy has seen 
it, and nobody can't kill it, for you can bang a stick 
right through it without hurting it. Mammy allus 
says, 'Don't you never go into that wood, else the 
black pig'll get you.' ' 

We showed him picture books, and, pointing 
to an ass and a foal, he said, " My daddy's got a 
little donkey just like that, three months old, and 
when it's bigger I shall ride on it, like that man's 
doing in the pictur'." 

We rambled in the Rectory garden, and he 
quickly found a hedgehog in its nest. All the senses 
of this little fellow were extremely alert. 

In the early evening his mother returned for 
him, and their meeting was a pretty sight. Placing 
her hawking-basket on the ground, she picked up 
her laddie in her arms and kissed him. Slowly 
the pair walked away, casting more than one back- 
ward glance at the house. 

A few days later, news reached me of a Gypsy 
arrival in a green lane about a mile from my Rectory. 
I therefore hastened across the fields, and, long 
before sighting the party, whiffs of wood-smoke, 
which the breeze brought my way, told that they 
were already encamped. On reaching the spot, 
Farmer W 's best bullock pasture, I spied 



68 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Jonathan's cart along with other vehicles drawn up 
with their backs towards a high hedge. There 
were fires on the grass, and from family groups 
merry voices rang out on the air. In the lane a 
troop of children were hovering around a little black 
donkey, a pretty young foal, which allowed them to 
fondle it to their hearts' content. What a picture 
it was which greeted me tree-boles, tilt-carts, and 
hedgerows lit up by the fading sunlight, and the 
blue smoke of the fires wafted about the undulating 
field dipping down to the river. Quickly I dropped 
into a corner by one of the fires, and the mirth 

was just at its height when up rode Farmer W 

on his chestnut cob. 

" Where's that scamp of a Boswell ? " he shouted 
angrily. 

Jonathan stepped forward, hanging his head 
somewhat. 

"What does all this mean?" asked the farmer. 
" I thought it was only for yourself that you begged 
leave to stop here. Who the divil's all this gang ? " 

" I really couldn't help it," said Jonathan. " They 
stuck to me, and would come in. They're all delations 
of mine, don't you see, sir ? " 

A look from the Gypsy made me step forward 
and plead for the party, which I did with success. 

About the middle of June I was again in Old 
Boswell's company. Under a hedge pink with wild- 
roses, we sat smoking and waiting for the fair to 
begin on Stow Green, a South Lincolnshire common. 




A WAYSIDE IDYL. 



Plwtc, Fred Shaw.} 




CHILDREN OF THE OPEN AIR. 

fkoto, Fred Shaw.} [To face p. 68. 



I MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE 69 

Already horses were assembling and dealers were 
beginning to arrive in all sorts of conveyances. 
Hot sunshine blazed down upon the common, 
whose only building was a wretched-looking lock- 
up, around which lounged several representatives 
of the county constabulary. Wandering in and about 
the motley throng, I caught a whisper going the 
round that a fight was to take place before the 
end of the day. It had been explained to me 
that this fight was not the result of any quarrel 
arising at the fair. It had been arranged long 
beforehand. Whenever a difference arose between 
two families, champions were told off to fight the 
matter out at Stow Green Fair. 

Somewhere about the middle of the afternoon, as 
the business began to slacken, a number of people 
were seen to move to one corner of the common. 
Evidently something was afoot. I wandered across 
and found a crowd consisting mainly of Gypsies, 
and in order to get a better view, I climbed upon 
a trestle table outside a booth. In the middle of 
a ring of people stood two of the dark Grays, stripped 
to the waist, and, at a signal given by an elderly 
man, the combatants put up their " maulers" and 
the fight began. It was by no means a one-sided 
contest, the men being well matched with regard 
to weight and strength. Blow followed blow in 
quick succession, and at the first drawing of blood 
the Gypsy onlookers became excited, and the entire 
crowd began to surge to and fro. Of course, the 



70 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

police hurried up, but soon perceived that it was 
useless to interfere. 

" Let 'em have it out," cried many voices. After 
a breathing space, the fighters again closed in, and, 
parting a little, one of them stepped back a pace or 
two and, springing towards his opponent, dealt him 
a heavy blow which determined the battle, and all 
was over. At this juncture, the table on which I 
and others stood suddenly gave way, and we were 
precipitated to the grass, but no harm was done, 
beyond a few bruises and the shattering of sundry 
jugs and glasses. 

An echo of a fighting song haunts me as I 
recall this Gypsy contest on Stow Green 

"Whack it on the grinders, thump it on the jaw, 
Smack it on the tater-trap a dozen times or more. 
Slap it on the snuff-box, make the claret fly, 
Thump it on the jaw again, never say die." 

After the fair was over I sat under a hedge and 
took tea with Jonathan and Fazenti. 

A hare's back adorned my plate. 

"Why, mother, I didn't know that this was in 
season. " 

" My dinelo (simpleton), don't you jin (know) its 
always in season with the likes of us?" 



CHAPTER VII 
THE BLACKPOOL GYPSYRY 

IT has been said that if an architect, a caterer, and 
a poet were commissioned to construct out of our 
existing south and east coast resorts a place which, 
in its appeal to the million, might compare with 
Blackpool, they would utterly fail, a saying not to 
be questioned for a moment. 

Yet the sight which thrilled me most, as I beheld 
it years ago, was not the cluster of gilded pleasure- 
palaces in the town, but the gay Gypsyry squatting 
on the sand-dunes at the extremity of the South 
Shore. Living-vans of green and gold with their 
flapping canvas covers ; domed tents whose blankets 
of red and grey had faded at the touch of sun and 
wind ; boarden porches and outgrowths of a fantastic 
character, the work of Romany carpenters ; un- 
abashed advertisements announcing Gypsy queens 
patronized by duchesses and lords ; bevies of black- 
eyed, wheedling witches eager to pounce upon the 
stroller into Gypsydom ; and troops of fine children, 
shock-headed and jolly all these I beheld in the 
Gypsyry which is now no more. " Life enjoyed 
to the last " might well have been its epitaph. 



72 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Those were the days of Old Sarah Boswell and 
her nephews Kenza and Oscar ; Johnny and Wasti 
Gray ; Elijah Heron and his son Poley ; Bendigo and 
Morjiana Purum ; the vivacious Robinsons ; Dolferus 
Petulengro and Noarus Tano ; some of whom, alas, 
" have joined the people whom no true Romany will 
call by name." 

Hot June sunshine flooded the sandhills on the 
afternoon of my entry into the encampment, which, 
by the way, was made strategetically from the rear. 
Thus it was that I lighted upon the retired tent of 
the oldest occupants of the Gypsyry. Unlike the 
alert and expectant Romany mothers and maids who 
hovered about this Gypsy town's front gate, Ned 
Boswell's widow sat drowsing at the tent door, over- 
powered by the midsummer heat. I was about to 
turn away, intending to revisit the old lady later on, 
when her son Alma, the lynx-eyed, popped upon me 
from round the corner, and in a sandy hollow a little 
way off we were soon deep in conversation. 

" Now, rashai" said Alma, after we had talked 
awhile, "there's one thing I would like to ask you. 
Where do you think us Romanitskels reely origin'd 
from?" 

Here I was confronted by a question which has 
been asked throughout the ages, and addressed to 
myself how many times ? 

Who are the Gypsies, and where did they come 
from ? Bulky tomes have been filled with scholarly 
speculations upon these questions, and so varied have 




ON THE LOOK-OUT. 



THE BLACKPOOL GYPSYRY 73 

been the conclusions arrived at that we appear to be 
no nearer to the solution of the mystery than when 
about the year 1777 the German Rudiger first made 
known to the world that the Gypsies spoke an Indian 
dialect, which discovery is said " to have injured more 
than it served in the quest after the origin of the 
Gypsies, because it has prevented scholars from 
searching for it." Taking philology for our guide, 
we may believe that the ancestors of our Gypsies 
tarried for centuries in North- West India, a region 
which they quitted with their faces set towards the 
west not later than about 1000 A.D. To quote the 
words of an authority l on the linguistic side of the 
problem : " Their language proves that they once 
inhabited Northern India, but as no Indian writers 
have left any documents describing this people, their 
mode of life in India, and the most interesting point 
of all, why they emigrated, must for ever remain a 
matter for conjecture. It is, however, surprising what 
can be proved from our present knowledge of their 
language, which, it is generally admitted, must rank 
as an independent eighth among the seven modern 
Indian languages of the Aryan stock, based on San- 
skrit. To begin with, the grammatical peculiarities 
of the language of the Gypsies resemble those of the 
modern Aryan languages of India so closely that it is 
impossible not to believe that they were developed side 
by side. Comparing Gypsy and Hindi, for example, 
we find that their declensions are based exactly on 

1 "Gypsies," by B. Gilliat-Smith (The Caian, vol. xvi. No. 3). 



74 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

the same principle, that neither has a real genitive 
case, that both decline their adjectives only when 
used as nouns. Now it is generally held that these 
modern forms came slowly into existence throughout 
the eleventh century, when the old synthetical struc- 
ture of the Sanskrit was broken up and thrown into 
confusion, but not quite lost, while the modern 
auxiliary verbs and prepositions were as yet hardly 
fully established in their stead. Therefore, it is 
extremely unlikely that the Gypsies left India before 
the tenth century, when they could have carried 
away with them, so to speak, the germs of the new 
construction, absorbed on Indian soil." 

From the words they borrowed from Persia, 
Armenia, and Greece, we know that the wanderers 
passed through these countries on their way west- 
ward, but, since no Arabic or Coptic words are found 
in the Gypsy tongue, we infer that they were never 
in Egypt. The theory of the Egyptian origin of the 
Romanitskels probably arose from legends which 
they themselves set afloat. 

Two stories were repeated by the Gypsies. They 
said that they were Egyptian penitents on a seven 
years' pilgrimage. The Saracens had attacked them 
in Egypt, and, having surrendered to their enemies, 
they became Saracens themselves and denied Christ. 
Now, as a penance, they were ordered to travel for 
seven years without sleeping in a bed. A second 
story was that their exile was a punishment for the 
sin of having refused hospitality to Joseph and 



THE BLACKPOOL GYPSYRY 75 

the Virgin Mary when they fled into Egypt with 
the newborn Christ-child to escape the anger of 
Herod. 

Associated with the Gypsies are other legends 
which may have been invented by them for similar 
purposes. An old tradition asserts that Caspar, one 
of the three Magi, was a Gypsy, and that it was he 
who (as their ruler) first converted them to the 
Christian religion. The Lithuanian Gypsies say 
that stealing has been permitted in their favour by 
God because the Gypsies, being present at the 
Crucifixion, stole one of the four nails, and therefore 
God allows them to steal, and it is not accounted a 
sin to them. 

Needless to say, the foregoing statements were 
not delivered to Alma Boswell. Of their actual 
history the Anglo- Romany folk know nothing, but 
this does not prevent them from holding some curious 
notions about themselves. So, in response to Alma's 
question about the origin of the Gypsies, I replied 
that great scholars believed his race to have come 
from India. 

"Oh, I think they're wrong," said Alma. "Far 
more likely we came from the land of Bethlehem. 
Being a rashai (parson), you'll know the Bible, I 
suppose, from cover to cover. Well, you've heard of 
the man called Cain. Now, don't the Old Book say 
that he went away and married a black-eyed camper- 
gal, one of our roving folks ? I reckons we sprang 
from them. We was the first people what the dear 



76 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Lord made, and mebbe we shall be the last on 
earth. When all the rest is wore out, there'll 
still be a few of our folks travelling with tents 
and wagons." 

Such was Alma's idea of the origin of the Gypsies. 

" But there," he continued, " you must read my 
Uncle Westarus's big book all about our people.. 
There was a doctor and a lawyer, wery kind gentle- 
men, real bawre raiaw (swells), who used to talk to 
my uncle for hours on end, and they wrote down 
every word he said, and then he wrote them a sight 
of letters, wery long ones, and they are all of 'em in 
print. So if you reads that book, you'll larn all as is 
known about us." 

Alma's Uncle Westarus was certainly a remark- 
able Gypsy, possessing quite a library, which he 
carried about with him on his travels. It is on 
record that at the age of fifty-five his library included 
several volumes of fiction, history, poetry, and science, 
a large Bible, a Church of England Prayer Book, 
Burns' s Justice, as well as English, Greek, and Latin 
dictionaries. 

For the information of those who may not already 
know it, the volume designated by Alma " my uncle's 
book" is a most valuable vade mecum for Gypsy 
students entitled The Dialect of the English Gypsies, 
by Dr. Bath Smart and Mr. H. T. Crofton. 

There was a strong dash of Gypsy pride in Alma's 
remark that the Boswells were the only real Gypsies 
left. " These others all about us are kek tatsho " (not 



THE BLACKPOOL GYPSYRY 77 

genuine), he said, with a wave of the hand ; " they 're 
only half-breeds." 

" But," I queried, "are not the Herons and Lees 
good Gypsies ? " Then, veering from his first state- 
ment, he admitted that the families I had named 
might be allowed a place among the old roots. 

Then followed a discussion about grades of Gypsy 
blood. These were classified by Alma 

1. The Black Romanitsheh, "the real thing." 

2. The Dida&ais, or half-breeds, who pronounce 
the Romany words dik akai (look here) as did akai. 

3. Hedge-crawlers, or mumpers. "There's a lot 
of 'em up London way," said Alma. "We'd scorn 
to go near the likes of them a tshikli (dirty) lot, 
not Gypsies at all." 

In his last remark Alma certainly hit the nail on 
the head. The distinction between the Gypsy and 
the mumper cannot be too strongly emphasized. 
Anyone who has known members of our old Gypsy 
families, such as the Boswells, Grays, Herons, Lees, 
Lovells, Smiths, Stanleys, and Woods, will never 
again make the grave error of confounding the Gypsy 
with the mumper. 

Rising from our hollow in the sand, we walked a 
little way between the tents, and when Alma took 
the railway crossing for a ramble in the town, I 
betook myself to his mother's tent. Having just 
aroused from sleep, the old lady was somewhat 
absent-minded, but she was quickly on the alert at 
hearing my greeting in Romany. 



78 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

" What gibberish is it you're talking, my gentle- 
man ? " 

" You understand it well enough, I'm thinking, 
mother." 

So blank was her look, so well-feigned her 
ignorance, that for the nonce it seemed that after all 
the ancient language of the tents was a delusion and 
a dream. 

Then methought of a plan I had tried before. 
Having for many years made a study of Gypsy 
pedigrees, I have often been able to give a temporary 
shock to a Gypsy's mind by telling him the names of 
his great-grandfathers and of his uncles and aunts, 
paternal and maternal. " How came you to know 
all this, Mr. Hall?" my Gypsy will ask. "You 
certainly don't look an old man." 

It was now my turn to pretend ignorance. 

" If it's not being very inquisitive, Mrs. Boswell, 
I am wondering what your maiden-name may have 
been?" 

" That I won't tell you, and nobody in this town 
knows what it was." 

" Is that really so? Fancy, no one in Blackpool 
knows your maiden-name." 

" Not a soul." (This very solemnly.) 

" Then what if I can tell you ? " 

" Well, what was it, my gentleman ? " eyeing 
me curiously. 

" You are one of the Drapers Old Israel's 
daughter, if I'm not mistaken" (looking straight into 



THE BLACKPOOL GYPSYRY 79 

her large eyes as though reading the information at 
the back of her brain), "and your two sisters were 
Rodi and Lani." 

If a stone figure had spoken, she could scarcely 
have looked more amazed, and, quite forgetting 
herself, she exclaimed 

" Av adr, mi tshavo^ and besh tale " (Come inside, 
my son, and sit down). 

Mrs. Boswell's manner was now so amiable, and 
her voice so soft, that as she handed me cake and tea, 
I felt as if I had known her all my life. All who 
have ever met a pure-bred Gypsy will know what 
Romany politeness is, and how charming a sense of 
the fitness of things these wanderers possess. As 
one who has worked hard at Gypsy genealogy, I have 
myself often been surprised at one thing. A member 
of the kawlo rat (black blood) will betray no inquisi- 
tiveness in regard to his tiresome interlocutor who 
may be a perfect stranger to him. How many of 
us, I wonder, would care to be subjected to such an 
inquisition as we sometimes inflict upon a Gypsy by 
our interrogations as to his ancestry ? Yet the Gypsy 
apparently takes it all with complacence and good 
humour. 

When taking mine ease behind the scenes in a 
Gypsy camp, it has often amused me to observe how 
extremes meet. After all, the tastes of the high and 
the low are not so very far removed. If the duchess 
is proud of her blue blood and her ancestral tree, so 
is the Gypsy of her black blood and lengthy pedigree. 



8o THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

I have known " swells" who liked their game so 
" high " that it almost ran into the fields again, a 
taste akin to the Gypsy's liking for mulo-mas. The 
Gypsy mother's love for her black cutty joins hands 
with the after-dinner cigarette in my lady's boudoir. 
It goes without saying that politeness is a stamp of 
both extremes. 

In the cool of the evening I wandered inland to 
a sequestered camp, where Isaac and Sinfai Heron, 
those aristocrats of their race, sat by their fire in an 
angle where two hedgerows met. 

" We likes a bit o' quiet, you see," said the slender, 
gracious Sinfai, when I asked why they had pitched 
on a spot so far from Blackpool's South Shore. 

"Get the rai one o' the rugs to besh opr" (sit 
upon), said Isaac to his grandson Walter, who 
trotted off briskly to a large tent, and reappeared 
with a smartly striped coverlet, which he spread for 
me beneath the hedge. A second grandson, with a 
similar alacrity, set off at Sinfai's bidding to find 
sticks for the fire. The devotion of these lads to 
their grandparents seemed to spring from a sense of 
comradery rather than reverence, and the quaint 
deference paid in turn by the old people to the boys 
impressed me not a little a thing I have often 
observed in Romany camps. 

Old Isaac's memory carried him back to Mouse- 
hold Heath of the long ago, and, listening to his talk, 
one could see the brown tents and smoking fires 
amid the ling and fern. Among the Gypsies reclining 



THE BLACKPOOL GYPSYRY 81 

by those fires were the Smiths, the Maces, the Pin- 
folds, and the Grays Sinfai's folk and of course 
some of the old Herons. Niabai, Isaac's father, 
would sit mending kettles, for, like many of the 
Gypsies of those days, he was a tinker by calling, 
and when on travel would carry his grindstone on 
his back. Sometimes of an evening, " Mister 
Burrow" would walk up on to the Heath for a chat 
with Niabai and his wife " Crowy," so called by 
reason of her very dark features. Borrow picked 
up from Crowy many a Romany lav (word). Gypsy 
fights were common on the Heath, and at times 
the fern would be trampled down by the crowds 
who came from far and near to witness these 
thrilling scenes. 

Old Isaac had two uncles of whom he made 
mention William Heron, always known as "the 
handsome man," and Robert Heron, known as "the 
lame man." Examples of a remarkable exactness 
of observation are Sorrow's pen-portraits of the two 
last-named brothers contained in the Introduction to 
The Zincali. The writer does not mention them 
by name, but when I submitted a memorized version 
of these word- pictures to my friend Isaac he at once 
recognized his uncles, William and Robert. 

Let us open The Zincali. 

Handsome William is standing by his horse. 
He is tall, as were all the men of his clan. 

" Almost a giant, for his height could not have 
been less than six feet three. It is impossible for 



82 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

the imagination to conceive anything more perfectly 
beautiful than were the features of this man, and 
the most skilful sculptor of Greece might have taken 
them as his model for a hero and a god. The 
forehead was exceedingly lofty a rare thing in a 
Gypsy ; the nose less Roman than Grecian fine, yet 
delicate ; the eyes large, overhung with long, droop- 
ing lashes, giving them almost a melancholy ex- 
pression ; it was only when the lashes were elevated 
that the Gypsy glance was seen, if that can be called 
a glance which is a strange stare, like nothing else 
in the world. His complexion was a beautiful olive, 
and his teeth were of a brilliance uncommon even 
amongst these people, who have all fine teeth. He 
was dressed in a coarse wagoner's slop, which, 
however, was unable to conceal altogether his noble 
and Herculean figure. He might be about twenty- 
eight." 

William is said to have persisted in carrying his 
own silver mug in his coat pocket, and would drink 
out of no other vessel. " I'd scorn to wet my lips 
with a drop of drink out of a gawjikeno kuro" 
meaning the publican's mugs. 

Robert, William's elder brother, remained on 
horseback, looking "more like a phantom than any- 
thing human. His complexion was the colour of 
pale dust, and of that same colour was all that 
pertained to him, hat and clothes. His boots were 
dusty of course, for it was midsummer, and his 
very horse was of a dusty dun. His features were 



THE BLACKPOOL GYPSYRY 83 

whimsically ugly, most of his teeth were gone, and 
as to age, he might be thirty or sixty. He was 
somewhat lame and halt, but an unequalled rider 
when once upon his steed, which he was naturally 
not very solicitous to quit." 

Robert was always considered the wizard of the 
clan. Never having been married, he dispensed 
with a tent, preferring, like some of the deep Woods 
of Wales, to sleep in a barn. He was nicknamed 
"Church" Robert, because he was a reader and 
had a wonderful memory, and sometimes going to 
church he listened to lessons and psalms and would 
afterwards reel them off like a rokerm tshiriklo 
(parrot). 

When I made a move to go, Old Isaac drew 
himself to his full height and said, " Av akai apopli, 
rashai" (Come here again, parson), and the boys 
to whom I had mentioned my roving experiences 
urged me to come and camp near them. " Let us 
put up a tent for you here next to ours." Sinfai, 
who walked to the field-gate with me, slipped into 
my pocket a bita delaben (small gift), a green wine- 
glass. 

A sunset of rare beauty was reddening the sand- 
hills when I returned to the Gypsyry on the South 
Shore. For a while I walked up and down in the 
miniature fair, and before I turned my face towards 
the town, lights began to appear in the tent baulks 
and the stars came out over the darkening sea. 

Next morning I was walking along the spacious 



84 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

sea-front with Archie Smith for companion, and in 
the distance appeared a little man pushing a grinding- 
barrow. Quickening our steps, we overtook him 
and found he was Elijah Heron on his morning 
round. I inquired where he was stopping, and 
promised to visit him later in the day. My com- 
panion, the lively Archie, was reeling off for my 
benefit a list of the inhabitants of the South Shore 
Gypsyry, and had just mentioned Bendigo Purum, 
when, rounding a corner, we met the man himself, 
a very swarthy Gypsy almost black, one might 
say. 

" Roker of the Beng" whispered Archie, "and 
you'll dik lesti" (see him). 

Farther along in a narrow thoroughfare we 
observed several Gypsy women out a-shopping, their 
gay diklos and blouses making splashes of bright 
colour in the crowded street. It seemed to me 
that Blackpool was alive with Gypsies. In the 
afternoon I returned to the South Shore, and, hearing 
the strains of a violin proceeding from a gorgeous 
red blanket tent in a field near the railway, I made 
my way thither, and to my joy I discovered Eros 
and Lias Robinson at home. 

Here is a song which I heard from the lips of 
Lias 

" Mandfs tshori puri dai 
Jaw'di adre kongri to shun the rashai ; 
The gawje saw saPd as yoi besft& tale ; 
Yoi dik'S 'drt the ///, but yoi keka del-aprt ; 



THE BLACKPOOL GYPSYRY 85 

The rashai roker'd. agen dukeru\> pen'd. dova sos a laj\ 
But yov keka jtn'd mandi duker^ yov's tshai, 
Puker'd. yot'd romer a barvclo rai" 



Translation. 

" My poor old mother 
Went into church to hear the parson; 
The gentiles all laughed as she sat down; 
She looked into the book, but she could not read; 
The parson talked against fortune-telling, said it was a shame, 
But he never knew I had told his daughter's fortune, 
Told her she'd marry a wealthy squire." 

Lias was full of reminiscences of wanderings 
through the heart of Wales, and I listened with 
keen interest to his talk about the deep Woods. In 
my readings of Leland's writings I had come upon the 
mention of Mat Wood whom, in after years, I had 
the good fortune to meet in Wales. During his 
Welsh wanderings, Lias had met several sons of John 
Roberts, the harpist, concerning whom I had learned 
much from Groome's delightful book, In Gipsy Tents. 
Here I may mention that Old John Roberts was an 
occasional visitor to Lincolnshire in days gone by. 
He travelled widely with his harp, on which he was 
a talented player. My wife, who hails from the Fen 
country, remembers John's visits to her native village 
of Fleet, near Holbeach in Lincolnshire, where he 
would play on the parish green, as well as on the 
lawns of private houses. A venerable-looking, 
bearded man, who might have passed for a clergy- 
man, he was a welcome guest in the home of my 



86 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

father-in-law, where he would play old airs to a 
pianoforte accompaniment. 

The afternoon and evening which followed my 
morning ramble were crowded with Gypsy experi- 
ences. At the back of a large tent sat Kenza 
Boswell fiddling, while his daughters danced with 
exceeding grace. 

Next, Noarus Tano, in one of his skittish moods, 
kept me in fits of laughter for ten minutes. He was 
the humorist of the Blackpool camp. 

Entirely unaccustomed to controlling his imagina- 
tion, Noarus will tell an extraordinary tale in which 
he himself plays a part, with no other object than to 
amuse his hearer, or to lift himself a little higher in 
your esteem. And just as no one is expected to 
believe the narratives of Baron Munchausen, so the 
Gypsy in telling his " lying tale " is perfectly content 
with the laughter of the listener. This gay spirit 
of exaggeration certainly stamps the following tale 
told by Old Tano. 

The scene is the kitchen of the village inn, and 
poultry-lifting is the topic of conversation. It is 
Noarus who speaks 

" There's a farmer's wife up in the willage what's 
been blaming a two-legged fox for robbing her hen- 
roost. I say it's some low dealer what comes out of 
the town with a light cart on a shiny night when the 
stormy winds are blowing, so as folks shan't hear 
him at work. You knows the sort, but us Gypsies 
has a different way. When did you ever know any 




THE GYPSY'S PARSON WITH HIS FRIENDS. 

Photo, Fred Shaw.] 




THE BLACKPOOL GYPSYRY 87 

of us to meddle with anythink in these here parts ? 
Don't your farmers buy ponies off us ? Ain't we highly 
respected by the gentle-folk for miles round ? Why, 
there was a squire up in Yorkshire, a prize-poultry 
fancier, as know'd my people wery well. We often 
camped on his land and never meddled with nothink. 
He trusted us so much that he comes down to our 
tents one day and says to my daddy 

" ' I want to beg a favour of you, Tdno. I'm 
going abroad for a while, and I want you and your 
son to take charge of my poultry farm while I'm 
away.' 

" Well, my daddy and me took charge of his 
prize fowls, and when he come back again, how do 
you think he found things, my gentlemen ? " 

The company, profoundly impressed by the 
speaker's discourse, exclaimed with one voice 

"All right to a feather." 

"Nay, that he never did. Wed ate the hull 
blessed lot / " 

Mindful of my promise to visit Elijah Heron, I 
sought out his tent, and I had to stoop very low to 
get in the doorway. In my pocket was a heavy, 
silver-mounted brier pipe possessing a large amber 
mouthpiece. This I presented to the old man, and 
it was good to see his face light up with pleasure. 
" Tatsheni rup si kova " (Real silver is this), he said, 
pointing to the mountings. " A swZglers kek kushto 
without tuvalo" (A pipe's no good without tobacco), 



88 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

I remarked, handing him a cake of Black Jack. He 
lighted up and looked as happy as a king. 

Noticing that I was slightly deaf, he recommended 
oil extracted from vipers as good for deafness. The 
mention of snakes took him back to his sojourn in 
the Antipodes. " I never talks of saps (snakes) but 
I thinks of the days when I was travelling in 'Stralia. 
One night I got leave from a farmer to stop near a 
river, but I didn't hatsh odoi (remain there) for more 
than an hour or two, for I found there was saps about 
nasty, hissing critturs. A black man as come down 
to the river to water some hosses told me that the 
saps sometimes maw'd (killed) animals near the river, 
so I packed up my traps and kept on the road all 
night. Give me Old England, I say. I'm right 
glad to be back here." 

In a little tent hard by, I heard Poley and his 
wife singing as I said " Good-night" to Elijah. 
Happy, twinkling eyes they were that looked out at 
me from that little tent door as I passed. I envy you 
that merry heart, Poley, that evergreen spirit of yours, 
and, recalling your face, I see again the array of 
Gypsy tents as twilight dropped its purple veil on 
Blackpool's pleasant shore. 



CHAPTER VIII 
A TRENTSIDE FAIR 

OVERNIGHT a welcome rain had fallen upon a thirsty 
land, and morning broke cool and grey, with a lively 
breeze stirring the tree-tops, and shaking the rain- 
drops from the grasses, as I strode along the banks 
of the river Trent, with my face set towards West 
Stock with Horse Fair. The long, dry summer was 
drawing to a close, and there was an agreeable sense 
of novelty in the rain-drenched aspect of the country- 
side. After a harvest prematurely ripened by an 
exuberance of sunshine, brown-cheeked September 
was now hastening to splash here a leaf and there 
a spray with rich colour, and on this particular morn- 
ing it seemed to me that reeds, flags, and willows 
were taking on autumnal tints earlier than usual. 
Occasionally, from the river bank, I spied a water- 
rat or a coot swimming amongst the sedges, and 
once on the path stretching before me a pert wagtail 
the Gypsy bird foretold, as the Gypsies say, a 
coming encounter with roving friends. 

Pleasantly enough my early morning walk 
terminated at the old-world Trentside village of my 
destination. By this time, between the vapours 



90 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

rolling overhead, the sun had appeared, and was 
gilding the barges moored to a primitive quay below 
the long line of straggling houses. On the Lincoln- 
shire side of the Trent quite a colony of Gypsy vans 
had drawn up on a turfy plateau, and their owners 
were now to be seen crossing the river by ferry-boat, 
their laughter floating to me over the water. This 
was by no means my first visit to the riverside horse 
fair, and after refreshing at one of the inns, I went 
down the lane to the fair-ground occupying two 
fields, in the larger of which were already assembled 
horses and dealers in a state of lively commotion 
beyond a fringe of ale-booths and luncheon tents ; 
while in the smaller field were gathered numerous 
Gypsy families with their carts and smoking 
fires. 

Never in my life do I remember to have witnessed 
such a horde of ancient vagabonds of both sexes as 
on this occasion, and with no little delight I stood and 
gazed upon the picture. What struck me in particular 
was the motley character of the party. Decrepit 
great-grandfolks mumbling together ; grandfathers in 
ragged garb and battered hats ; wizened grandmothers 
sucking their pipes ; aged uncles and aunts in time- 
stained tatters ; wives in their teens dandling babies ; 
bright-eyed children drumming happily on the 
bottoms of inverted pots and pans ; merry lads and 
lasses, interspersed amongst an assembly of the 
quaintest rag dolls it has ever been my fortune to 
behold. It seemed to me as if all the old Romany 



A TRENTSIDE FAIR 91 

folk of several counties had met together for the last 
time in their lives. 

Moving into the larger field, I had not gone far 
before I felt a tug at my sleeve, and, looking round, 
I saw the two lads whom I had met with Jonathan 
by the watermill. They led me straight to a little 
covered cart drawn under the hedge where Boswell 
was conversing with Tlisti Smith. 

As I have said elsewhere, the play-spirit is strong 
in the Gypsy, even in his latter years, and while 
talking with my two friends up came a comical-look- 
ing Gypsy, Charley Welch, who must have been 
nearer ninety than seventy, and, picking up a potato 
lying on the ground the large field had grown a 
crop of potatoes that summer he laughingly dropped 
it into Jonathan's coat pocket. 

" There, don't say that Old Charley never gave 
you nothink." 

After that I walked with Jonathan among the 
horses, and we came upon Flash Arno and Black 
I nan, who found time to accompany us to one of the 
refreshment booths where the talk ranged through 
a variety of topics. I nan knew Mister Groome, the 
book-writer, up Edinburgh way. He had met him 
there not long before in company with my friend 
Frampton Boswell. I soon found that these Gypsies 
did not hold with folks writing books about their 
race and telling the mumpli gawje (nasty gentiles) 
about their ways. 

No one loves a little fun more than the Gypsy, 



92 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

and generally he means no harm by his playful 
romancing. After all, he is but a grown-up child, 
and loves to make-believe. The Gypsy's world is a 
haphazard one, in which luck plays a large part. He 
knows nothing of the orderly cosmos of providence 
or science. I make these remarks by way of prelude 
to examples of this spirit. 

Who can help laughing inwardly as the Gypsy 
weaves a romantic tale about you, all for the benefit 
of a stranger ? And in the course of my morning's 
ramble through West Stockwith Fair I had several 
experiences of the kind. 

" See that little dealer over there ? " said Peter 
Smith, indicating a small Gypsy man holding a tall 
black horse by a halter. The animal looked gigantic 
by the side of its owner. 

" Come along with me, and while I roker (talk) 
to him, maiv puker a lav " (don't speak a word). Then 
we both went up to the little Gypsy, and with the 
gravest of countenances Peter began to spin a long 
romance all about an imaginary sister of mine who 
lived at Brighton and was wanting just such a horse 
as the one before us. It really was a fine animal, 
and I could not refrain from stroking its glossy 
skin. 

Peter continued : " This here gentleman doesn't 
ride hisself, you see, but his sister has asked him to 
look out for a horse, and this one 'ull just suit her." 
I found it difficult to preserve silence, but somehow 
I managed to do so. Finally, Peter took me aside 



A TRENTSIDE FAIR 93 

and talked mysteriously about nothing in particular, 
and quietly bade me walk away. A few minutes 
later I beheld Peter quaffing a large mug of ale 
evidently at the little man's expense. 

Moving in and out among the throng, I presently 
walked out along the road, and there I came upon 
Hamalen Smith, who, after some talk, suggested a 
bit of fun. Pointing to a Gypsy camp down a lane, 
he said 

" That's Belinda Trickett sitting by the fire with 
her children. Go you down the lane and have a 
little game. I'll stop here and see how you get on. 
You don't know the woman, I suppose ? " 

" Not I. She's a stranger to me." 

"That's all right. Togged as you are, she'll 
never take you for a parson, not she. Mind you look 
severe-like and say to Belinda, ' Is your husband at 
home? What's his name?' It's Harry, but she's 
sure to say it's something else." 

Down the lane I went, and, approaching Mrs. 
Trickett and family, I drew out a notebook and 
pencil a sure way to frighten a Gypsy. Why these 
things should suggest " police" I can scarcely say, 
but they do. The woman's clay pipe dropped from 
her mouth and fell upon the grass, and beneath the 
brown of her cheeks a pallor crept. Mrs. Trickett 
was alarmed. 

" What is your husband's name ? " 

" George Smith." 

" When will he be at home ?" 



94 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

" I can't say. He's gone to the fair." 

Under their mother's shawl three tiny children 
huddled like little brown partridges beneath an out- 
spread wing, a sight which caused me some prick- 
ing of heart. The biggest child kept saying, 
"What does the gawjo want, mammy?" Just then 
I looked up the lane and saw a man coming down, 
who by his jaunty air I guessed was the woman's 
husband. 

" Kushti sawla (Good morning), Mr. Trickett ; 
take a little tuvalo" I handed him my tobacco pouch. 
"I've come a long way to see you. Ask me to sit 
down a bit, now I've got here." 

Mrs. Trickett's face was a study in wonderment, 
as I sat down for a friendly chat. " Dawdi" said 
she, "you did trasher mandi (frighten me). I thought 
there was tshumani opre " (something up). 

When Hamalen Smith, from the top of the lane, 
saw that the episode had arrived at a happy termina- 
tion, he strolled down the lane and joined us. 

A far-travelled Gypsy is Hamalen, and many a 
tale can he unfold. 

"One morning," said he, "a policeman came up 
to my wagon and told me as how twenty-four fowls 
was missing from the next field to where we was 
stopping. Somebody had stole 'em in the night. 
' Of course you suspects us,' says I to the policeman, 
1 but you're wrong. We've never touched a feather 
of 'em.' However, nothing would do but the man 



A TRENTSIDE FAIR 95 

must search my wagon from top to bottom, and for 
all his trouble he found nothing. I know'd very well 
I hadn't touched 'em, and I was telling him the 
truth. 

" * Wait a bit,' says he. ' Didn't I see three vans 
in this field last night as I was going along the high 
road ? ' 

"'Yes,' I replied. 'My boys have gone on in 
front with the other wagons.' 

" Says he, ' That looks suspicious. I must make 
haste and find them. Where have they gone ? ' 

" ' I can't say, for I don't know myself.' 

" ' Well, I shall have to come with you, and you 
must show me where to find them.' The policeman 
jumped up and sat on the seat along with me and my 
wife, and off we went to find the boys. Of course it 
was plain to see by the wheel-marks just outside the 
gate which way they had turned, but when we got to 
the cross-roads about three miles furder on, the road 
was that hard and dry that no wheel-marks could be 
seen. Now I could easily have misled the policeman, 
but I thought it best to try to find the boys as quick 
as I could, for I didn't believe for a minute they had 
done it. Looking down the road, I saw the boys' 
patrin (guiding sign). The policeman didn't know 
what I was looking at, and it wasn't likely as I should 
show him our signs, so I says we'll take this road, 
and we turned off to the left. 

" ' How did you know which way the boys 
had gone ? ' asked the policeman. * Was it some- 



96 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

thing tied on that tree bough hanging over the 
road?' 

" ' I never sees nothing on the tree bough/ 
says I. 

" I thought to myself the policeman must have been 
reading some tale about the Gypsies. Anyway, he 
had heard something about pairing and such-like, 
but I wasn't going to be the one to larn him our 
signs, so I changed the subject. 

"'Yon's my boys on in front,' says I. The 
policeman began rubbing his hands and smiling. 
At last we caught up with the boys, and the police- 
man searched inside the two wagons and found 
nothing. Then he says 

" ' I might as well look on the top,' and he climbed 
on to the roofs of the wagons. 

" ' Hello, what have we here ? ' says he, in a way 
that made me turn warm. He lifted up a dead 
pigeon. 

"' Where did you get that from?' I asked the 
boys. 

" ' Picked it up a bit o' way down the road. It 
had just killed itself on the telegraph wires by the 
wood side.' 

" After that, the disappointed policeman went away, 
and the thieves were never found out. 

" Another time we draw'd into a rutted lane lying 
off the high road. We had our three wagons, and 
at night we always covered the big one up, because 



A TRENTSIDE FAIR 97 

we didn't sleep in it. It was a nice quiet lane, and 
we thought there would be nobody to trouble us as 
there was no willage near. But about midnight a 
man knocked on the wagon and woke us up. 

" * What are you doing here ? ' 

" ' No harm, I hope. We'll clear out first thing in 
the morning.' He said he'd been knocking at the 
big wagon what was covered up, and he couldn't 
make anybody hear. 

''Well,' says I, 'whatever you do, don't you touch 
that big wagon agen.' 

" ' Why, what's in it ? ' 

" ' Wild beasts, for sure a lion and a tiger' 

"You'd ha' laughed at the way that man made 
hisself scarce. Next morning, as we draw'd out of 
the lane, we met a policeman. 

" ' I hear you have some wild beasts in that big 
wagon of yours. Wasn't it a bit dangerous stopping 
so near the highway ? ' 

" ' Well, we're clearing out in good time.' 

" ' Get along with you then.' 

" A few miles furder on the road we come to a little 
town, and as it was market day we pulled up in the 
big square, and I took the cover off the big wagon. 
Just as I was doing this, who should come up but the 
policeman we'd met in the early morning. 

" ' Where's those wild beasts of yours ? ' says 
he. 

" 'Oh,' says I, Til soon show you.' And I went 
inside my brush and carpet wagon and brought out 
7 



9 8 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

two big rugs, and I showed him a tiger skin and a 
lion skin, both lined with red. 'There's my wild 
beasts,' said I. 

"Talk about laughing, I thought that policeman 
would never ha' stopped." 



CHAPTER IX 

TAKEN FOR TRAMPS AN EAST ANGLIAN 
FAMILY 

DAY after day, in the woods around our village, the 
autumnal gales roared and ravened with unabated 
fury, snapping brittle boughs, cracking decrepit boles, 
and piling up drifts of brown leaves around grey roots 
protruding like half-buried bones through the mossy 
woodland floor. Then right in the midst of it all 
came a spell of calm weather, as if summer had stolen 
back to her former haunts in sylvan glade and ferny 
lane. Call it by what name you please, this brief 
season of sunny repose following upon the heels of 
the tempestuous equinoctials is a time when some 
of us are impelled, as by a primal instinct, to shake 
off the collar of routine and take the road leading 
over the hill into what realm of adventure beyond. 

Fully a week the summer-like interlude had held 
sway in the land. Upon the newly-turned furrows 
shimmered a golden light. A dreamy haze trailed 
its filmy skirts over hill and dale. In narrow lanes 
invisible threads of spiders' silk stretched from hedge 
to hedge, and wayside tangles again were silvered 
over with a fine dust suggestive of July. Amid the 



99 



ioo THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

lingering clover-flowers bees buzzed and blundered. 
Through the still air, leaves of maple and chestnut, 
like red-winged insects, twirled down to the grass, 
and the tall elms in the village churchyard littered 
their yellow foliage upon the graves. Everywhere, 
serenitude, repose, peace, save in restless hearts 
chafing at the humdrum of tasks grown monotonous 
by reason of long-continued performance. For who 
with a soul fully awake can resist the lure of the road 
at gossamer-time ? 

Thus it came to pass one afternoon that my wife 
and I, slipping out of our drowsy village, took the 
upland way which after numerous windings brought 
us into the Great North Road. Our plans were of 
the flimsiest. It mattered little whether we went 
north or south, so long as we were absent for a few 
days. On reaching the far-famed highway we stood 
under the branching arms of a finger-post, and tossed 
pennies to determine the course of our itinerary. 
" North " having won the toss, we footed it gaily in 
that direction. To be sure, our semi-Gypsy garb, 
donned for this jaunt, was not long in taking on a 
coating of road dust, and we were about to shake off 
this clinging powder, when the rattle of wheels was 
heard behind us, and almost immediately a dogcart 
slowed down by our side, and the driver, a rubicund 
farmer, amicably invited us to take a lift, an offer 
which was gladly accepted, and we climbed aboard 
the conveyance. 

"I've allus had a feeling for folks like you, and 



TAKEN FOR TRAMPS 101 

I offens give 'em a lift as I'm passing back'ards and 
forrards on the ramper. Afore I pulled up just now 
I says to myself, ' They've seen better days, I'll be 
bound.' Maybe you've been in the army? Least- 
ways, I thought you seemed to hold yourself up 
pretty straight in your walk. I've done a bit of 
soldiering myself. Once at a big do-ment in London, 
I was in the Queen's Escort. Yes, I've been about 
a bit in my time. I dessay you two's got a goodish 
way to go yet afore you come to your night's 
lodgings. 

" Ay, dear me," he went on, "we offens has your 
sort calling at our place my farm's a few miles 
farther along this way and one day not long since 
a poor chap knocked at our door and asked for work. 
He was a parson's son, so we gave him a lightish job 
and fed him well and bedded him in the barn for 
three or four nights, till his sore feet got right agen. 
Poor fellow, he worn't much good at labouring work, 
but we liked to listen to his tales ; he could tell you 
summut now." 

Thus he rambled on after the manner of a 
garrulous Guardian of the Poor who had acquired an 
interest in tramps. 

"Yon's my place among the trees, so I must 
leave you here." 

We thanked him for his kindly lift, and, rounding a 
bend in the highway, were glad to relieve our pent-up 
feelings in laughter over the good man's misconception. 

Now, as everyone knows, who has journeyed 



102 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

along it, the fine old turnpike abounds in travellers 
of every shade and grade. Not once or twice on its 
turfy wayside have I fraternized with " Weary 
Willies" boiling their tea in discarded treacle-tins. 
Even now as we went along, two or three tramps 
passed by, one of them coming up to beg a few 
matches, the others scarcely giving us a glance. 

Hearing the rumble of an approaching vehicle, we 
looked towards the bend of the road, and round it 
came what looked like a carrier's cart drawn by a 
horse apparently old, for it proceeded slowly, and 
the cart creaked and jolted as if it, too, were ancient. 
As it jogged nearer, I saw it contained but a single 
occupant a brown-faced little man who wore a faded 
yellow kerchief and, stepping into the roadway, I 
greeted him with sd shan (how do ?). Whereupon he 
pulled up. " I heard what you said just now, but 
you've made a mistake. I'm no Romany I'm a 
showman, an Aunt Sally man, bound for Retford." 

Now a Gypsy will frequently deny his blood. 
Knowing that his kind live under a ban, he has no 
desire to draw attention to himself. But, looking at 
this Aunt Sally man, I saw that he had told the truth. 
His face was freckled. No real Gypsy freckles. 
After all, as Groome says, "It is not the caravan 
that makes the Gypsy, any more than my cat becomes 
a dog if she takes to living in a kennel." 

Our road now became a gradual descent into a 
clean, flower-loving village, where amid the trees we 
caught the gleam of a large canvas booth in a field, 



TAKEN FOR TRAMPS 103 

and there were knockings of a mallet to be heard. 
Nor was it long before we learned what was afoot. 
Within a tavern's comfortable parlour, a coloured 
playbill informed the world that Harrison's travelling 
theatre would that evening present a sensational 
drama Gypsy Jack and in due time we found our- 
selves seated among the cottagers and farm-hands, 
enjoying a highly entertaining, though garbled, 
version of Mr. G. R. Sims's Romany Rye. Opening 
with a Gypsy encampment in which the gaily dressed 
Lees sat talking round a fire in a forest glade, we 
were successively shown Joe Hackett's shop, the 
race-course at Epsom, the deck of the Saratoga, the 
cellar near Rotherhithe, and the Thames by night. 
The play seemed a not inappropriate episode in our 
Gypsy jaunt. 

Years afterwards, during one Derby week, I saw 
Mr. Sims's Romany Rye remarkably well played at a 
South London theatre. In connection with this play 
an amusing story is told. The managers of the 
Princess's Theatre in London were anxious that the 
new drama should be announced in the " Agony " 
column of The Times. Like many another one, the 
advertisement clerk at The Times office could make 
nothing whatever of the mysterious words Romany 
Rye. 

"What the deuce is this Romany Rye?" he 
asked the bearer of the strange document. 

"If you please, sir," said the messenger, whom 
the manager of the theatre had sworn to secrecy " if 



104 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

you please, sir, I think it's the name of a new liver- 
pad." 

"Well," remarked the official, "The Times is a 
great paper and can do without padding. Take it 
away." 

And the advertisement was declined. 

From the door of the canvas theatre it was an 
easy walk to the little town of Newark-on-Trent, at 
one of whose pleasant hostelries we spent the night, 
our window overlooking the ruined castle by the 
waterside. It had been in our minds to continue our 
walk next morning along the Great North Road, but 
at breakfast a small paragraph in a newspaper brought 
about a quick change in our plans. The item of 
news ran thus 

" THE ROMANIES AGAIN. 

"Our friends, the gipsy Greys, are still with us in 

Grimsby, lamented Mr. Councillor E last evening, 

and he wanted to know whether something could not 
be done to get them to clear out. The Town Clerk 
had assisted them somewhat, and one or two had 
gone, but there were still four families encamped at 

the back of T Street, New Clee. Inspector 

M said he had visited the encampment and he 

must say that the caravans were very clean. They 
could not be said to create a nuisance. ' It is not 
the tents that are a nuisance,' replied the lively 
representative of the H Ward, 'but the parties 



AN EAST ANGLIAN FAMILY 105 

themselves, who trespass in the backyards of the 
houses in that neighbourhood. It is no uncommon 
thing on waking up in the morning to find a donkey 
or a goat in your backyard or garden.' The Inspector 
stated that Eliza Grey, the owner of the vans, had in- 
formed him they would all be going away in a few days." 

It was the sight of the Romany family name 
which altered our plans. The East Anglian Grays 
are a good type of Gypsy not to be encountered every 
day, hence we decided to lose no time in taking the 
train for Grimsby. It was a crawling " ordinary" 
by which we travelled, and at a little wayside station 
a few miles out of Newark, a lithe, dark fellow carry- 
ing a pedlar's basket stepped into our compartment, 
and at once I recognized in him my old friend Snakey 
Petulengro. How his face lit up on seeing me, for 
we had not met for years. I was so much struck by 
his altered bearing that I could scarcely believe my 
eyes. He seemed now as gentle in his manner as 
once he had been wild. The sight of him brought 
back Gypsy Court and all its associations. He said 
he had left the old home, his father and mother 
having passed away. On my inquiring about his 
sister Sibby, he said she had married a Gypsy and, 
tiring of Old England, had gone to 'Merikay. As 
Snakey quitted the carriage at Lincoln, an observant 
passenger remarked 

"There goes one of Nature's gentlemen." 

By mid-afternoon the slender hydraulic tower 



io6 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

glowed rosily in the sunlight above Grimsby Docks ; 
and since the fishing-port had no particular charm 
for us, we proceeded to Cleethorpes, preferring the 
more airy shore and being eager to see the Gypsies. 
As might be expected, the summer-like day had 
brought a goodly number of late holiday-makers to 
the sands, and as we moved in and out among the 
groups near the pier foot, I heard a donkey-boy 
address someone not far away 

"Would the lady like a ride?" The lad's 
features, bearing, and tone of voice were distinctly 
Gypsy, and, seeing he was within hail, I looked 
towards him and said 

" Dova stkushto maila odoi " (That's a good donkey 
there). 

His face beamed with delight, and from his lips 
sprang the question 

" Romano Rai?" (Gypsy gentleman ?) 

"Awa; kai shan tiro foki hatstim?" (Yes; 
where are your people camping?) 

In gratitude for the explicit directions he gave, 
I placed a sixpence in his hand, and his remark was 
" Dova's too kisi, raia " (That's too much, sir). " A 
hora (penny) would have been dosta (enough) for 
mandi" (me). This boy was one of the Grays, and, 
following his instructions, we had no difficulty in 
locating the Romany camp. 

It was early evening when we strolled forth upon 
an expanse of grass parcelled into building plots, 
where in a corner between the hedgerows were 



AN EAST ANGLIAN FAMILY 107 

drawn up, with the doorways facing south, several 
substantial vdd (caravans) near which some large 
tents had been erected. The Grays, who were 
silently moving to and fro, revealed by their interested 
side-glances that they had already heard of some- 
body's inquiries concerning themselves, and when 
we advanced to offer our civil and friendly greetings 
to two women who were washing pots before an 
outside fire, every politeness was shown to us. 
They rose and spread a horse-rug for us upon the 
ground. "Dai ta tshai" (mother and daughter), thought 
I ; nor was I wrong. The older woman, diminutive, 
lean, and somewhat bent with age, informed me that 
she was Eliza Gray, and the younger was her 
daughter Lena. As we talked by the fire, a goat 
appeared and rubbed its nose affectionately against 
Eliza's knee. Said she : " This is an old pet of ours. 
We's had it for years. I picked it up in Scotland." 

In late September the sun goes down early, and a 
chilly wind now set in from the North Sea. In the 
baulk of the old lady's tent a coke brazier was glowing 
invitingly, so we all moved under cover, and, seated 
on a dais of clean straw covered with rugs, listened 
to tales and talk, the brazier's crimson gleam being 
our only light After some discussion of mutual 
acquaintances, the conversation drifted towards 
dukerm (fortune-telling), a subject never very far 
from the thoughts of a Gypsy woman. 

" How I've safd" (laughed), said Eliza, "at those 
dineti gawj (foolish gentiles) what come to our tent 



io8 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

to be dukerdi. One time I put a crystal on a little 
table covered with oilcloth, and I ax'd the young 
lady if she couldn't see her sweetheart in it. * Yes, 
I can,' she says, ( and it's just like his face, but oh, 
lor, in this glass ball he's got a tail.' I nearly laughed 
straight out, for I'd sort of accidentally put the 
crystal on top of a monkey picture. The oilcloth 
was covered with all sorts of beastses, don't you 
see?" 

A superstitious family, the Grays have a charac- 
teristic way of recounting their own traditions. Here 
is one of Eliza's tales 

" Once we were stopping by a woodside. The 
back of our tent was nigh agen a dry ditch full of 
dead leaves, and one night we lay abed listening to 
sounds, a thing I can't abide. Well, there was 
rummy folk about in them days, so when we hears 
a footstep in the wood just t'other side of that there 
ditch, I ups wi' the kettle-prop and peeps outen 
the tent, and listens, but no, never a sound could 
I catch ; all was still as the grave. Till long and by 
last there comes a rustling in the leaves, and the 
bushes parts like something trying to make a way 
through. Then I lifts up the kettle-prop, and I says 
to myself, if blows are to be struck, Liza had better 
be the first to strike, when there, straight afore me, 
stands a woman waving her poor thin arms about, 
but saying nothing. At that I drops the kettle-prop 
and screams, and my man Perun jumps straight up. 
' They're killing my Liza, they are.' But by that 



AN EAST ANGLIAN FAMILY 109 

the muli (ghost) had gone like a flash of lightning. 
Next morning we ax'd at the keeper's house down 
the lane, and the missis tell'd us as how a rawni 
(lady) was once maw'd (murdered) in that wood, 
so it would be her muli as I saw that night. Oh, 
yes, I believe in mul, I do." 

During the telling of this tale two of Eliza's 
sons, Yoben and Poley, sauntered up and stood 
listening behind their sister Lena. It was Yoben 
who now added his contribution of ghost-lore. 

" Why, yes, of course, mother, there's muti (ghosts). 
Don't you remember after Dolferus died, his voice 
used to speak in the tent to Delaia? She says it 
really was his voice as nat'ral as life, and it made 
her shiver to hear it. One day she went to a parson 
for advice. He told her the next time it spoke, to 
say : ' I promise you nothing. Begone ! ' Well, 
sure enough, the voice came again, and she re- 
membered to say what the parson had told her, and 
she never heard the voice no more. My Uncle Ike 
asked Delaia one day 

" ' I say, my gal, did you really hear Dolferus's 
voice ? ' 

" ' Yes ; it was his and no one else's.' 

"'Is that the tatshipen (truth), my gal?' Ike 
seemed anxious to know the truth of the matter." 

"Dreams is funny things," put in Poley, "and 
I've had some wery queer 'uns in my time. Once 



no THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

I dreamt I was walking along a narrow shelf of rock, 
and on one side of me was a stony wall like a cliff, 
and on the other side the edge of the path hung 
over a terrible steep place. Right away below was 
a river of fiery red stuff pouring along. You could 
smell it. I thought this rocky road was the path 
to heaven, and I was trying to get there, but, 'pon 
my word, it was no easy matter. Now I see'd a 
tiger chained to the rocky wall on my left hand, and 
a bit furder on a big lion was tied up. These here 
critturs was hard to get past. I had to go wery 
near the dangerous edge what looked down on to 
the burning river. What a fright I was in ; it made 
the sweat run off me. Sometimes I had to crawl 
on my hands and knees to get round a big rock in 
the middle of the path. I felt as if I never should 
get where I wanted to. Well, after a lot of 
scrambling and slithering, for my feet gave way 
sometimes I had naily boots on I got to the top 
of the path, and in the dazzling light, like the sun 
itself on a summer day, there sat a grey-haired, 
doubled-up man, a wery aged man, with his chin 
resting on his hand. It was the Duvel (God), and 
when he see'd me coming, he sat up and held up 
his hand, forbidding me to go any furder. He 
didn't speak a word, but I knew that his uplifted 
hand meant ' Go back.' And just then I woke. 
That's my dream of trying to get to heaven." 

" There's a lot about heaven and hell in God's 



AN EAST ANGLIAN FAMILY in 

Book, isn't there, raskaH" said Old Eliza. "A 
rawni (lady) used to read all about them places to 
us on a Sunday, but that were years ago, and I 
used to like to hear her talk about the blessed 
Saviour riding on a maila (donkey) into the big 
town. She said they nailed him to a cross on Good 
Friday, and when we was young I remember we all 
used to fast on that day. We ate no flesh nothing 
with blood in it it would be a sin to do that. If 
we took anything to stay our hunger it was nothing 
but dry bread, and our drink was water. We didn't 
tuv (smoke), and we didn't tov our kokere (wash our- 
selves) on that day. I don't know whether there be 
such places as heaven and hell. I reckons we makes 
our own destiny. Heaven and hell's inside us ; that's 
what I think." 

Lena, however, had her own ideas. "This life 
is everything there is, I reckons, and when we're dead, 
that's the end of us. Life is sweet, mind you, and 
we's a right to be as happy as we can. Mother's 
getting old, you see, and has had her fling. I mean 
to have a good time. Why, last Sunday me and 
Poley was going off to get some nuts in the woods, 
but mother stopped us 

"It's Bengs work getting nuts on the dear Lord's 
day." 

" Yes," says Yoben ; "I've heard our old daddy 
say that the Beng likes nuts, and I'd sartinly scorn to 
go getting them onlucky things on a Sunday ; I 



H2 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

wouldn't like to put myself in the Seng's power, like 
poor Zuba Lovell." 

" What about Zuba?" asked my wife. 

Then Yoben told a weird tale. 

" A handsome lass was Zuba, but bad luck dogged 
her like her own shadow. One night she came back 
to the camp, for she lived with her old people, and, 
throwing down a few coppers she had in her hand, 
she said 

" ' There, mother, what do you think of that for a 
hard day's work ? ' She had done wery badly, you see. 
Luck never seemed to come her way at all. And 
after supper she wandered out a little way from the 
camp. The moon and stars was shining as she 
walked round and round an old tree, a blasted old 
stump, black as a gallows-post. As she kept on walk- 
ing round it, she said aloud, ' This game won't do for 
me. It's money I want and money I'll have. I'd sell 
my blood to the Beng to have plenty of money in my 
pocket always.' The words was hardly out of her 
mouth when a black thing, like the shadow of the 
tree, rose up from the ground, and, lor, there was the 
wery Beng hisself, and after he'd promised her what 
she had wished for, he wanished. And after that no 
more grumbling from Zuba ; no more complaints 
about her bad luck. She always had plenty of money 
now, and she bought herself trinkets and fine clothes 
till everybody was 'mazed at her, and of course she had 
kept it to herself what took place that night by the 




A MAID OF THE TENTS. 

[To face p. 112. 



AN EAST ANGLIAN FAMILY 113 

old tree. Days and weeks went by, till one night 
Zuba was missing from the camp. Her old folks sat 
up by the fire waiting for her, but no Zuba came. 
At last her daddy set out to look for her, and there 
by the foot of the tree lay Zuba's frock and shawl, 
and when he took 'em back to his wife's tent, the 
poor woman screamed and fainted right away, and 
old man Lovell walked up and down all night, 
saying, ' Oh, my Zuba, my blessed gal, we shall 
never see you no more,' and they never did. The 
Beng had fetched her. That's the end of Zuba 
Lovell." 

While listening to these tales in the tent, the 
flight of the hours passed unobserved, till a distant 
clock boomed out the hour of ten. 

" You'll wel apopli (come again), my dears ? " said 
Eliza, as we retired amid the smiles and bows of the 
Gypsy family. 

Next morning found us again in the camp. Al- 
ready the Gypsies had breakfasted, and were making 
preparations for "tovm-divus" (washing-day). Sun 
and wind promised an ideal day for such a purpose. 
It was a thing to be noticed that the articles about to 
be dealt with lay in two heaps on the grass. 

Among the Gypsies there is a ceremonial rule 
which holds it to be mokadi (unclean) to wash together 
in the same vessel " what you eat off with what you 
wear." This was the meaning of the separated 
articles, and then I observed two zinc vessels lying 



II 4 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

ready on the ground. Said Old Eliza to Lena, " I'll 
take this lot, and you take that lot." To begin with, 
they both cleansed their hands and arms in hot 
water, and as they did this I remarked how brown 
were Lena's arms, whereupon she replied with a 
laugh 

" Awa> raia (Yes, sir), monkey soap won't fetch 
that off" a modern rendering, I take it, of Ferdousi's 
saying, " No washing will turn a Gypsy white." 

Now as our friends were about to become much 
occupied, we proposed to stroll round the camp and 
pay calls on the other Gypsies in the same field. 
" Stop a bit," said Eliza, and, slipping into the tent, 
she came out with a black bottle. " You'll take a 
drop of my elderberry wine and a bite o' cake," pour- 
ing out the claret-coloured liquid into two glasses 
fished out from an inner recess. While enjoying this 
snack on the grass, I took out from a breast pocket 
a white unused handkerchief which I spread on my 
knee. Presently Old Eliza slyly took it by the corner 
and twitched it away, giving me in place thereof a 
neatly folded napkin brought from the tent, and I saw 
that I had broken a Gypsy custom in converting a 
handkerchief into a crumbcloth. Said the old mother, 
" That mol (wine) is old, and should be kushto (good). 
It's some we buried in a place till we came round 
again." 

In another corner of the field were encamped 
Fennix Boswell and his stepson Shanny, and, going 
forward, we found the pair seated at their tent door 



AN EAST ANGLIAN FAMILY 115 

handling fishing-rods. On seeing us they rose and 
invited us into the tent, where we sat down. Shanny 
showed us some of his pencil drawings. 

" I've got one of a parrot somewhere ; I must find 
it," said he. 

" Awali, muk man dik o rokerin-tshiriklo " ( Yes, 
let me see the talking-bird), I replied, and in a minute 
or two he handed me a really clever sketch. 

These two Gypsies had just come down from 
Scotland, where they had been travelling during the 
summer months, and we got talking about Kirk 
Yetholm. The Blythes, related to old King Charley 
Faa, were acquaintances of theirs. It appears that 
one of the King's sons named Robert, a rollicking 
fellow, was fond, as Gypsies are, of practical jokes, 
and some of his escapades are still remembered in 
the Border Country. One of Fennix's tales about 
this fun-loving Faa may well find a place here. 

One spring morning Bobbie started off on a 
foray with some of his pals. The air was clear, 
and a soft wind was blowing over the Lammer- 
moors on whose slopes the lambs were gambolling. 
The Gypsies had walked a few miles, and the 
mountain air had sharpened the edge of their 
appetites. Looking round for a farmhouse or a 
cottage where they might ask for a kettle of boiling 
water to brew their tea in the can such as few of 
the Faas would ever travel without Bobbie was 
the first to espy some outbuildings, at the back of 



n6 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

which stood a shepherd's cottage, and, taking upon 
himself to be spokesman, he bravely started off 
for the cottage, the men resting meanwhile at the 
foot of the hill. As he approached the door, a fine 
savoury smell greeted Bobbie, making him feel ten 
times more hungry than before. He knocked 
gently at the door, which stood ajar, but no one 
came, and all was quiet within. He repeated his 
knock, and, taking a step forward, found the 
kitchen empty. Before the fire stood a tempting 
shepherd's-pie of a most extraordinary size, and its 
appetizing steam quite overcame any scruples which 
otherwise might have lurked in the heart of 
Bobbie Faa. Not for one moment did he hesitate, 
but, nipping up the dish, he speedily ran down the 
hill with the pie under his arm. Not knowing how 
he had come by it, his mates could scarcely believe 
their eyes when he laid the pie on the grass, and 
they praised the gude-wife who had so kindly 
given them such a feast. When the dish was 
empty, he gave it to a pal, telling him to take it 
back to the gude woman and say how much they 
had enjoyed the pie. It happened to be a sheep- 
shearing day, and the shepherd's wife had gone to 
call her husband and his fellows to their dinner. 
She had just returned to the kitchen when the 
Gypsy lad arrived with the empty dish, and on 
handing it back to her with smiles and thanks, a 
torrent of abuse was poured forth on the poor boy's 
head, as the woman now grasped the situation and 



AN EAST ANGLIAN FAMILY 117 

became aware of the fate of her pie. Just then 
her husband and the other shearers appeared round 
the corner, and, hearing what had befallen their 
dinner, the infuriated men seized the lad and gave 
him a sound drubbing. 



CHAPTER X 
PETERBOROUGH FAIR 

THE twentieth century has witnessed a remarkable 
revival of certain old-time pleasures in the form of 
pageants and pastoral plays, folk-songs, and dances, 
but it should not be overlooked that in our midst 
still linger those popular revels, tattered survivals 
of medieval mirth, called pleasure - fairs, held 
periodically in most of our old country towns. It 
is true, these ancient fairs are not what they were, 
Father Time having laid his hand heavily upon 
them, with the result that not a few of their features 
which were reckoned among our childhood's joys 
have vanished. 

Gone are the marionettes, the wax-works, the 
ghost-shows. Departed, too, are many of the 
mysterious little booths, behind whose canvas walls 
queer freaks and abnormalities were wont to hide. 
Perhaps, however, when the travelling cinema has 
outworn its vogue, the older "mystery" shows will 
reappear by the side of the Alpine slide, the scenic 
railway, and the joy wheel. 

Still renowned for their wondrous gaiety are a 
few of our larger fairs, whither huge crowds flock 

1*8 



PETERBOROUGH FAIR 119 

by road and rail for a few hours of rollicking 
carnival. I have in mind such events as Barnet 
September Fair, Birmingham Onion Fair, the 
October merry-makings at Hull, Nottingham Goose 
Fair, and the like, but even these, owing to a 
variety of reasons, are now of shrunken dimensions. 

Fairs of whatever sort are generally occasions 
of friendly reunion, not only for show-people and 
gawj visitors, but also for Gypsies who love to 
forgather on the margins of the fair -ground, or 
upon an adjacent common, where they compare 
notes and discuss the happenings since their last 
meeting. 

Borne on the crisp October air, the chimes of 
Peterborough floated over the city roofs, reaching 
even to the fair-grounds, where I was one of the 
large holiday crowd which hustled and laughed 
and tossed confetti in mimic snow-showers. When 
in quest of Gypsies, the first half-hour you spend in 
wandering about a fair is a time of pleasurable 
excitement. Who can tell how many old friends 
you may meet, or what fresh dark faces you are 
about to encounter ? 

As I was saying, the crowd was hilarious, and, 
having so far recognized no Romany countenance up 
and down the footways between the coco-nut shies 
and shooting-galleries, swing-boats and merry-go- 
rounds, it occurred to me that a little more breathing- 
space might be found upon the open pasture where 
horses were being bought and sold, and, pushing along 



120 THE GYPSY S PARSON 

in that direction, I was brought to a standstill at the 
foot of the steps leading down from a gilded show- 
front. Walking with the airs of a fine lady, there 
came down those steps a young Gypsy attired in a 
yellow gown and tartan blouse, with a blazing red 
scarf thrown over her shoulders upon which her hair 
fell in black curls. It was this coloured vision as 
much as the block in the footway that held me up 
for the nonce. Another moment, and Lena Gray, 
Old Eliza's daughter, brushed against my shoulder, 
yet, as often happens in a crowd, she failed to see 
me. Therefore, into her ear I dropped a whispered 
Romany phrase at which she started, and, recog- 
nizing me, exclaimed- 

" Dawdi, raia, this is a surprise ! " 

It was but a few steps to the sheltered spot in a 
field opposite the horse-fair where her brother Yoben 
sat fiddling by the side of the living-van. Even 
before we came up to him, something arrested my 
attention the unusual shape of his violin, which, as 
Lena informed me, her brother had made out of a 
cigar-box picked up in a public-house. 

Our field corner had a most agreeable outlook. 
Beyond a stretch of greenest turf, dotted with 
caravans and bounded by the reddening autumn 
hedgerows, lay the pleasure-fair, a sunlit fantasia of 
colour, from which, like feathery plumes, ascended 
puffs of white steam topping numerous whirling 
roundabouts. Pleasant it was to sit out here in the 
calm weather chatting with the Grays, whom I had 



PETERBOROUGH FAIR 121 

so recently met on the Lincolnshire sea-border, and 
even while we conversed there passed by a little 
party of gaily-dressed Gypsies two rather portly 
women of middle age and two slender girls. 

"Who are those people?" I asked. 

" Some of thtgozvtr& (cunning) Lovells," replied 
Lena. Then I remembered that for some time past 
I had carried in my notebook several cuttings grown 
dingy with age, relating to traditional practices 
characteristic of this family. Two paragraphs will 
suffice as specimens. 

"A domestic servant told a remarkable story 
yesterday before a West London magistrate. She 
said that a gipsy called at the house and asked her 
to buy some laces. She refused, and prisoner then 
offered to tell her fortune for a shilling. Witness 
agreed, and the woman told her fortune, and she 
(witness) gave her two shillings, and asked her for 
the change. Prisoner said she would tell her young 
man's name by the planet. Witness had a half- 
sovereign and two half-crowns in her purse, and 
prisoner asked her to let her have the coins to cross 
the palm of her hand with. She handed her the 
coins, and the woman crossed her palm. She then 
asked her to fetch a glass of water, and, on her 
returning with it, told her to drink it. Afterwards 
she told her to pray, and then, apparently putting 
the i os. and the two half-crowns in her pocket- 
handkerchief, placed the handkerchief in her bodice, 



122 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

and told her not to take it out for twenty minutes. 
After that the woman left. 

" The magistrate : ' Did you take the handker- 
chief out ? ' 

" ' Well, I waited for twenty minutes or so, and 
then I took it out, and instead of the los. and the 
two half-crowns I found two pennies and a farthing.' 
(Laughter.)" 

Obviously, the above is a variant of the ancient 
Gypsy trick known as the hokano bawro (big swindle). 
Something equally Gypsy, as we shall see, clings to 
our second example. 

" The local police have had their attention 
engaged during the week in connection with an 
alleged extraordinary occurrence whereby a shopgirl 
became, under supposed hypnotic influence, the dupe 
of two gipsy women. From inquiry it appears that 
on Saturday afternoon two gipsy women, having the 
appearance of mother and daughter, entered a baby- 
linen shop, and seem to have exerted such a remark- 
able influence over the girl that she was induced to 
hand over to them articles of wear amounting in 
value to between & and g. Before they left the 
shop she recovered her self-possession sufficiently to 
express doubt as to whether they would return with 
the goods or money, and her fears were allayed some- 
what by receiving from her visitors in the shape of 
security a lady's beautiful gold ring and chain. 
Subsequently the young lady, suspecting the genuine- 



PETERBOROUGH FAIR 123 

ness of the pledges, took them to a jeweller, who 
declared the value of the ring and chain to be not 
more than a couple of shillings. The shopgirl is 
unable to account for her want of self-possession in 
the presence of the gipsies, and states that she felt 
she might have given them anything they asked for. 
There were a good many gipsies located in the 
district, but on a visit to the encampment in company 
with the police the girl did not recognize her two 
visitors. The remarkable occurrence has given rise 
to much comment in the locality." 

Here is something strangely akin to the Romany 
mesmerism to which allusion is made by "The 
Scholar-Gipsy," whose 

"... mates had arts to rule as they desir'd 
The workings of men's brains; 
And they can bind them to what thoughts they will." 

As is well known, Matthew Arnold's poem is 
based upon the following passage in Joseph Glan- 
vill's Vanity of Dogmatizing \ 

" That one man should be able to bind the 
thoughts of another, and determine them to their 
particular objects, will be reckoned in the first rank 
of Impossibles; Yet by the power of advanc'd 
Imagination it may very probably be effected ; and 
story abounds with Instances. Tie trouble the 
Reader but with one ; and the hands from which 
I had it, make me secure of the truth on't. There 



124 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

was very lately a lad in the University of Oxford, 
who, being of very pregnant and ready parts, and 
yet wanting the encouragement of preferment, was 
by his poverty forced to leave his studies there, and 
to cast himself upon the wide world for livelyhood. 
Now, his necessities growing daily on him, and 
wanting the help of friends to relieve him ; he was 
at last forced to joyn himself to a company of 
Vagabond Gypsies, whom occasionally he met with, 
and to follow their trade for a maintenance. Among 
these extravagant people, by the insinuating subtility 
of his carriage, he quickly got so much of their 
love and esteem ; that they discover'd to him their 
Mystery ; in the practice of which, by the pregnancy 
of his wit and partz he soon grew so good a pro- 
ficient, as to out-do his Instructours. After he had 
been a pretty while well exercis'd in the Trade ; 
there chanc'd to ride by a couple of Scholars who 
had formerly bin of his acquaintance. The Scholars 
had quickly spyed out their old friend, among the 
Gypsies ; and their amazement to see him among 
such society, had well-nigh discover'd him ; but by 
a sign he prevented their owning him before that 
crew ; and taking one of them aside privately, 
desir'd him with his friend to go to an Inn, not 
far distant thence, promising there to come to them. 
They accordingly went thither, and he follows ; after 
their first salutations, his friends enquire how he 
came to live so odd a life as that was, and to joyn 
himself with such a cheating beggerly company. The 



PETERBOROUGH FAIR 125 

Scholar-Gypsy having given them an account of 
the necessity, which drove him to that kind of life ; 
told them, that the people he went with were not 
such Impostours as they were taken for, but that 
they had a traditional kind of learning among them, 
and could do wonders by the power of Imagination, 
and that himself had learned much of their Art, and 
improved it further than themselves could. And to 
evince the truth of what he told them, he said he'd 
remove into another room, leaving them to discourse 
together ; and upon his return tell them the sum of 
what they had talked of ; which accordingly he per- 
form'd, giving them a full account of what had 
pass'd between them in his absence. The Scholars 
being amaz'd at so unexpected a discovery, earnestly 
desir'd him to unriddle the mystery. In which he 
gave them satisfaction, by telling them, that what 
he did was by the power of Imagination, his Phancy 
binding theirs ; and that himself had dictated to them 
the discourse they held together, while he was from 
them : That there were warrantable wayes of 
heightening the Imagination to that pitch, as to 
bind another's ; and that when he had compass'd the 
whole secret, some parts of which he said he was 
yet ignorant of, he intended to leave their company, 
and give the world an account of what he had 
learned." 

One sometimes wonders whether the world would 
have cared one jot about the revelations which the 



126 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Oxford Scholar here promises, for to the majority 
the "Gypsies" are almost tabu. 

In a letter which I received from that perfect 
Scholar-Gypsy and Gypsy- Scholar, the late Francis 
Hindes Groome, he tells how he once stumbled 
upon a typical critic. 

"Three or four years ago I gave a lecture on 
Gypsies at Greenock, and a well-dressed man came 
up after it. 

" ' There were some things,' he remarked, ' that 
I quite liked in your lecture, but on a good many 
points you were absolutely wrong' 

" ' Of course you've studied the question ? ' I 
asked him. 

" ' Yes,' he replied. ' I looked up the article 
"Gypsies" in Dr. Brewer's Dictionary of Fable 
just before coming along.' ' 

Talking of critics reminds me how I once re- 
ceived something of a shock to the nerves during 
the opening sentences of a lecture on " Gypsy Cus- 
toms." Not far from the platform where I stood, 
there sat a well-to-do horse-dealer who, having 
married a pure-bred Gypsy, was presumably in pos- 
session of " inside information." The vision of his 
face, all alertness and curiosity, caused me a momentary 
disturbance. What would this critic make of my 
disclosures? How would he take my revelations? 
Warming to my subject, however, I was made happy 



PETERBOROUGH FAIR 127 

by my auditor interjecting such remarks as " That's 
right." "He's got it." "Where does the man get 
it all from ? " Sometimes he would punctuate his 
exclamations by vigorously slapping his knee and 
laughing aloud. Certainly his ejaculations added a 
piquancy to my tales gathered from Gypsy tents. 

But to return to Peterborough Fair. 

About the middle of the afternoon, as I stood 
on a grassy mound overlooking the horses, I spied 
near a group of animals my old friend, Anselo 
Draper, flourishing a long-handled whip. This swart 
East Anglian roamer wore a dark brown coat of 
Newmarket cut, slouch hat of soft green felt, and 
crimson neckerchief neatly tied at the throat. Along 
an open space between the rows of horses sauntered 
his two pretty daughters, Jemima and Phoebe, bare- 
headed and bare-armed, their laughing voices ringing 
out merrily, while at their heels followed two little 
brothers cracking whips as became budding horse- 
dealers. 

Quite a head above the Gaskins and Brinkleys 
with whom she was talking loudly, stood Wythen, 
Anselo's wife, who, happening to look my way, 
smiled and came towards me, holding out the empty 
bowl of her pipe. 

" Got a bit of tuvalo (tobacco) about you, rashai 
(parson)? I'm dying for a smoke." 

"So bok ke-divus?" (What luck to-day?) I 
inquired, handing over my pouch. 



128 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

"JBi&tn'd tshttshi" (Sold nothing), she replied, 
jerking her whip towards the ponies, "but I'll duker 
(tell fortunes) a bit this evening," adjusting her 
black hat with its large ostrich feathers and gaudy 
orange bow set jauntily at the side. 

On my pretending to ridicule dukerm, she said 

" Look here, now, what's the difference between 
a Gypsy telling fortunes at a fair and a parson 
rokerm (preaching) in church of a Sunday ? " 

"If that's a riddle," said I, "it's beyond me 
to answer it." 

"Well, when folks do bad things, you foretell 
a bad future for them, don't you ? And when 
they do right, you promises 'em a good time ? 
What's the difference then between you and me ? 
I'm a low-class fortune-teller and you's a high-class 
fortune-teller. You's had a deal of eddication. My 
only school has been the fairs, race-courses, and sich- 
like. But I bet I can tell a fortune as well as you 
any day. Let me tell yours." 

And she did. 

As we stood there and talked, I noticed that 
the woman looked worried about something, and 
presently I heard her say to Anselo, " I haven't 
found it yet." It was a brooch that she had lost. 
Then I told how once I lost and found a ring. One 
Sunday morning just before service, I stood on the 
gravel swinging my arms in physical exercises as a 
freshener before going to church, and suddenly I 
heard the tinkle of my ring on the yellow gravel. 




MIDLAND GYPSIES. 

Photo, Fred Shaw.} 




SOUTH-COUNTRY GYPSIES. 

Photo, Fred Shaw.} [To face p. 128. 



PETERBOROUGH FAIR 129 

As only a few minutes remained before church time, 
I thought of a child's method of finding a thing 
quickly, and, turning myself round three times, I tossed 
upon the ground a smooth black pebble, and, going 
forward, lo, there was the ring close to the pebble. 

Eyeing me curiously, Wythen remarked 

" Do you know what we says about people as 
does that sort of thing ? Well, we reckons they has 
dealings with the Beng (Devil). 

" When I was a little 'un, my old granny would do 
things like that, and she used to say that when you 
sees a star falling you must wish a wish, and if you 
do it afore the stari pogers (the star breaks) your 
wish will come true." 

It seems that among Gypsies "wishing a wish" 
sometimes means a curse. It was at Peterborough 
Fair in 1872 that Groome saw a blind Gypsy child 
made blind, he was told, through the father wishing 
a wish. Akin to this is the belief in the evil eye. 
A Battersea Gypsy mother would not let her baby 
be seen by its half-witted uncle, for fear his looking 
at it should turn its black hair red. 

After leaving Wythen, I sauntered along, making 
mental notes of Gypsies all around, among whom 
were local Brinkleys, the far- travelled Greens, some 
Loveridges, and other Midland Gypsies. I was about 
to move away towards the pleasure fair, when a 
dealer standing near some ponies caught my eye. 
I had never seen the man before, but as he looked 
a thorough Gypsy, I drew alongside and accosted 



1 30 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

him in Romany. For a moment he stared at my 
clerical frock-coat and broad-brimmed hat, and then 
calmly remarked 

" I say, pal, you look born to them things you've 
got on, you do really. You reckons to attend fairs 
at these here cathedral places, don't you ? Didn't I 
once see you at Ely, or was it Chester ? " 

To this man I was nothing more than a Gypsy 
"dragsman" disguised in clerical garb. Accordingly, 
he lowered his voice as he said 

" See this here pony ? Will you sell it for me ? 
You'll do it easy enough with your experience. On 
my honour it ain't a bongo yek (wrong 'un), nor yet 
a tshordo grai " (stolen horse). 

" What about the price ? " I asked. 

" If you get a tenner for it," he replied, "there'll 
be a bd (sovereign) for yourself. What say ? " 

"Saw tatsho (All right). Jaw 'vrt konaw" (Go 
away now). And in less than ten minutes after 
taking my stand by the little animal, I had a bid 
from a young farmer of the small-holder type. His 
offer was accompanied by some adverse criticism. 
Who ever heard a man praise the horse he intended 
to buy ? 

" Examine the pony for yourself," said I. 

He looked at its teeth. He lifted its feet one by 
one. He pinched and punched it all over. The 
pony was next trotted to and fro, and so pleased 
was the farmer with the animal's behaviour that he 
promptly handed over ten pounds and led the pony 



PETERBOROUGH FAIR 131 

away. On seeing that I had completed the business, 
my Gypsy friend, who was just round the corner, 
came up, and on my giving up the money, he put 
one of the sovereigns into my hand. When I got 
away I had a good laugh to myself, and it took me 
some time to get my face straight. 

Walking back into the heart of the town, I saw 
a dusty, ill-clad party of Gypsies going slowly along 
with a light dray drawn by a young horse with 
flowing mane and long tail, and when they reached 
the corner where I was standing, I spoke to the 
woman who was at the horse's head. She said she 
was a Smith, and when I pointed to the name Hardy 
on the dray, she remarked, "Oh, that's nobbut a 
travelling name." It may be noted that Gypsies are 
extremely careless about their names. 

At a later hour in a field behind the pleasure 
fair, I found the comfortable vddo of my friend, 
Anselo Draper, and tapped at the van door with the 
knob of my stick. Quickly the door opened, and 
thrusting out his dark, handsome head, Anselo 
shouted, " Av frdre, daw" (Come in, friend). 

What a contrast ! Outside : a very babel of 
blaring sounds, a dark sky reflecting the glow of a 
myriad naphtha flares. Within : cosiness and warmth, 
red curtains, glittering mirrors, polished brasses, and 
a good fire. Over the best teacups (taken tenderly 
from a corner cupboard) Anselo and his wife talked 
of their travels. They had been as far north as 
Glasgow that summer, and had sold a good vddo 



132 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

(van) to one of the Boswells at Newcastle Fair. 
They had decided to winter at Southend-on-Sea. 
" We shall make a tent, a big one, and very jolly 
it will be with a yog (fire) in the baulk. To be 
sure, there will be plenty of mumpers (low-class 
van-dwellers) around us, but we shall not be the 
only tatshene Romanitsheh (real Gypsies) stopping 
there." 

Next, Anselo plunged into an account of a low 
dealer's trick at the horse fair. It seemed that this 
dealer had sold two horses to a farmer for forty 
pounds. A stranger coming up to the farmer offered 
to buy them at a higher price, so into a tavern they 
retired to talk things over. During drinks the 
stranger continually offered more money for the 
horses, and the farmer remained there a longer time 
than was good for him. At last when the man was 
hopelessly muddled the stranger disappeared. Nor 
had the horses so far been seen again. 

" But there's not so much of that done as there 
was. My father knew a Gypsy who died up in York- 
shire, a desprit hand at grai-tskorm (horse-stealing), 
and to this day they say, ' If you shake a bridle over 
his grave, he'll jump up and steal a horse." Both 
Wythen and Anselo laughed merrily as I told a tale 
I once heard of a Gypsy who had been " away " for 
a space. Coming out of the prison gate, he was met 
by a fellow who asked him what he had been in 
there for. 

" For finding a horse," was the reply. 



PETERBOROUGH FAIR 133 

" But surely they would never jug you for finding 
a horse ? " 

"Well, but you see I found this one before his 
owner had lost him." 

Anselo admitted that this sort of thing was not 
at all uncommon in the old days, and two of his 
uncles had to take a trip across the water for similar 
practices. 

When I left my friends and hastened to catch 
my train, the pleasure fair was in full blast, noisy 
organs, cymbals and drums, shrieking whistles, and 
the dull muffled roar of innumerable human voices, 
sounds which long haunted my ears, and, looking 
back from the moving train, there still floated from 
the distance the din and rattle of the receding fair. 



CHAPTER XI 

A FORGOTTEN HIGHWAY " ON THE ROAD 1 ' 
WITH JONATHAN THE PATRIN THE GHOST 
OF THE HAYSTACK 

" WE was all brought up on this Old Dyke. We's 
hatsJidi (camped) on it in all weathers. I knows every 
yard of it. Ay, the fine kanengr (hares) we's taken 
from these here fields." 

The speaker was my old friend, Jonathan Boswell, 
who with his tilt-cart had overtaken me whilst 
strolling along the grass-grown Roman Ermine Street 
which traverses the broad Heath stretching south- 
ward of Lincoln. At the Gypsy's cheery invitation, 
I joined him on his seat under the overarching tilt. 
Behind us were the diminishing towers of the old 
city, and right on ahead the chariot-way of the 
Imperial legions ran, straight as an arrow along the 
Heath. Not a wild expanse, mind you, like your 
Yorkshire moorland with its wimpling burns and 
leagues of heather, though I daresay our Heath, now 
so admirably tilled, was savage enough in the days 
when "the long, lone, level line of the well-kept war- 
path, marked at intervals with high stones or posts 
as a guiding-line in fog or snow, stretched through 



134 



A FORGOTTEN HIGHWAY 135 

a solitude but rarely broken, except by the footfall of 
the legionaries and the plaint of the golden plover 
sounding sweet from off the moorland." Turf-covered 
from hedge to hedge for many a mile, the High 
Dyke, as the old road is now called, may well be 
described as a forgotten highway. Indeed, I have 
tramped along it mile on mile without meeting a soul, 
unless mayhap it was a sun-tanned drover slouching 
at the heels of half a dozen bullocks, or a village lad 
asleep in a hedge-bottom, with a soft-eyed motherly 
cow or two grazing not far away. 

On this particular morning near the end of April, 
an unclouded sun lit up the verdant cornlands and 
larch spinneys. It shone upon the loins of the sturdy 
nag between the shafts. It touched into a brighter 
gold the gorse-bloom on the wayside bushes, and 
provoked the green-finches to fling their songs into 
the air from lichened palings and bramble sprays. 
Onward we journeyed, bumping and jolting over the 
uneven turfy road, and occasionally dodging the 
mounds of earth thrown up by the burrowing rabbits. 
What a picturesque figure my companion presented 
in his faded bottle-green coat adorned with large 
pearl buttons. His close-fitting dogskin cap imparted 
to his swarthy, sharply-cut features a not inappropriate 
poacher-like air, and I fancied the old man's wrinkles 
had deepened on his brow since our last meeting, just 
after his wife's death up in Yorkshire. 

Sitting back under the hood, Jonathan here burst 
out with a pretty little reminiscence. 



136 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

" D'ye know, my pal, what this here bit o' the Old 
Dyke brings to my mind ? Ay, deary me, it takes 
me back to times as'll never, never come no more 
the days when I were a lad along with my people and 
our delations B.-6esAin (resting) on this here wery 
grass we's passing over. See, there, under that 
warm bank topped with thick thorns : well, I's slept 
there times on end with my dear mammy and daddy 
in our tent, and my uncles and aunts would be katskin 
(camping) right along this sheltered bit. I can see 
it all while I's talking to you the carts with their 
shafts propped up and the smook a-going up from 
the fires afore the tents, and the ponies and donkeys 
grazing under the trees yonder. Ay, my son, them 
were the times for the likes of us. 

11 There's one thing I minds" (this with a merry 
twinkle in his eye). "Til tell you about it. It were 
a fine summer morning, somewheres about six o'clock. 
My mammy and daddy was up making a fire to boil 
the kettle. I heard 'em bustling about, and I ought 
to ha' been up to help, but I were lazy-like that 
morning. Then comes my daddy a-talking quick 
to hisself, and I know'd summut were the matter. 
He lifts up the tan-kopa (tent-blanket) and hollers at 
me as I lay stretched out upo' the straw 

" * Hatsh opr, tshavo, ker sig. De graiaw and 
maitas saw prasterd avri. Jaw'vri an' dik for len! 
(Get up, boy, make haste. The horses and donkeys 
have all run away. Go forth and look for them.) 

" I were out and off in a jiffey. I never stopped to 



"ON THE ROAD" WITH JONATHAN 137 

get dressed. What's more, me not thinking what I 
was a-doing, I throws away the only thing I had on 
my back my shirt just as you toss off your coat 
when you's in a hurry, and away I goes down the 
long road to find the animals. Whilst I were away, all 
the family, my big brothers and sisters, and them 
delations as I spoke of, had gathered round the fires 
for sawla-hawben (breakfast), an' they hadn't finished 
when I got back with the bosses and donkeys. I'd 
clean forgot how I were fixed, an', my gom, didn't 
they laff when they set eyes on me ; an* my blessed 
mammy, she shouts 

" ' Kaisl tiro gad, mo rinkeno tshavo ? ' (Where's 
your shirt, my pretty boy?) Into the tent I dived, 
an' I weren't long dressing, for I wanted to be gitting 
my share o' the balovas an' yoras (ham and eggs)." 

Occasionally the spinneys skirting the deserted 
road obscured the view of the far-off Wolds, but one 
could forgive these temporary interventions, for the 
sprays of larch and beech hanging out from the little 
woods were delicate in their new spring garb, and 
as the breezes caught them they rose and sank with 
a beautiful feathery droop. Now across the fields 
on our left hand there came into view a familiar 
landmark, Dunston Pillar, concerning which I once 
heard a story from the lips of Bishop Edward 
Trollope, a whilom neighbour of mine. 

At one time Lincoln Heath was a vast unenclosed 
rabbit warren dotted over with fir woods and quarries, 
and at times travellers lost their way upon it. So 



138 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Dunston Pillar was erected, and a lantern was placed 
on top to guide benighted wayfarers over the Heath. 
Doubtless the old lighthouse served its purpose well, 
yet it did not always enable people to reach their 
own homes in safety, for the locality was infested 
with robbers on the look out for travelling gentry. 
Not far from the Pillar stood an old coaching inn, the 
"Green Man," and one night, after assisting their 
driver to his box, two gentlemen who had been 
carousing there thought it prudent to remind their 
man thus : " John, be sure you keep the Pillar light 
upon your right, and then we shall reach Lincoln 
safely." However, when the two awoke at daybreak 
and found themselves still near the Pillar, one of them 
called out, "Why, John, where are we?" Upon 
which, John replied drowsily from the box, " Oh, it's 
a' roight, sir, the Pillar's on our roight." And so it 
was, for he had been driving round it all night. 

As we jogged along, Jonathan would occasionally 
jerk his whip towards a rich pasture, and with a sly 
wink would say, " We'sfluvd our graiaw in that field 
more than once." Let me explain. In order to give 
their horses a good feed, the Gypsies when camping 
on the High Dyke would turn their animals over- 
night into a nice fat pasture, taking care, of course, to 
remove them early in the morning. 

At this point we drew rein, and took a meal 
under the lee of a plantation in whose boughs 
thrushes fluted and willow-wrens made fairy music. 
Not far away, couch-grass fires sent their smoke 




NETTING RABBITS. 



Photo, F. R. Hinkins.} 



NEATH THE HEDGEROW. 




"ON THE ROAD" WITH JONATHAN 139 

across the level surface of a loamy field, making the 
air of the lane pungent with the scent of burning 
stalks. Seated there under the spreading trees, my 
Gypsy companion related a poaching incident with 
some gusto, for it is next to impossible to dispossess 
the Gypsy of the notion that the wild rabbits frisking 
about the moors and commons are as free to him as 
to the owner of the lands on which they happen to 
be playing. 

" One time when our folks was camping on the 
Dyke a keeper comes up to the fire. It was evening, 
and we was having some stew, and the keeper joined 
us. He were a pleasant, good-company fellow, wery 
different from keepers nowadays, and after the meal 
was over, my old mammy says to him, * There's 
two things that's wery good a drop of brandy to 
warm the cockles o' your heart, and a bit o' black 
'bacca to warm your snitch-end.' And the keeper 
agreed. Then my daddy brings out a black bottle 
and mixes him a drink in a teacup, and us boys 
come peeping into the tent to listen to the tales 
what daddy and the keeper got a-telling. I can see 
'em all a-sitting there now, my old mam a-puffing 
her swgler (pipe) and the keeper and daddy blowing 
a big cloud till you couldn't hardlins see across the 
tent for smook. But mam never gave us boys nothink 
from the bottle, and when the keeper began to get 
jolly, my dad tipped us a wink, and off goes three 
of us wi' the dogs, and we had a good time in the 
big woods. Nobody came near us, and we didn't 



I 4 o THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

carry the game home that night lest we might meet 
a gawjo. We know'd a thing better than that. We 
hid the game in a leafy hollow, and sent some of the 
big gells in the morning with sacks, and they brought 
all home safe." 

Two miles onward we stopped a few minutes at 
Byard's Leap to look at the large iron horseshoes 
embedded in the turf. It is these shoes that help to 
perpetuate the local legend which gives the hamlet 
its name. Here is the Gypsy version of the tradition. 

" Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, there was 
a wicked witch what lived in a stone-pit wi' big dark 
trees hanging over it. This woman did a lot of mis- 
chief on the farms all round, witching the stock in the 
fields, and she cast sickness on people young and old. 
They say the witch was once a beautiful girl who 
sold her blood to the Beng (Devil), and that's how 
she got her powers. At last she grew wery ugly, 
and still went on working great harm. One day the 
folks of that neighbourhood met together and tossed 
up to see who was to kill the witch. It was a 
shepherd who had to do it, though it went against 
his mind, as he had often played with the witch when 
she was a beautiful girl. However, he promised to 
put an end to her, and set off to choose a horse to ride 
on. All the horses on the farm were driven down to 
a pond. One of them was a blind one, an old favourite 
of the farmer's, which he wouldn't allow to be killed. 
Now, while the horses were drinking, the shepherd 



"ON THE ROAD" WITH JONATHAN 141 

was to wtiser a 6d (throw a stone) over the horses' 
backs into the water, and the one that looked up first 
was the one he was to ride. Well, if the poor old 
blind horse didn't lift up its head, so he saddled it 
and bridled it and rode off to the stone-pit. When he 
got there he shouted, ' Come out, my lass, I want to 
speak to you.' 

" ' I'm suckling my cubs ; ' she had two bairns, 
and the shepherd was said to be their father * wait 
till I've tied my shoe-strings, and then I'll come.' Soon 
she came out, and, springing on to the horse's back 
behind the shepherd, she dug her claws into the 
animal's flesh, while the shepherd rode poor blind 
Bayard that was the horse's name towards the 
cross-roads, and on the way there the grai (horse) 
gave a tremendous jump sixty feet and both the 
riders were thrown off; the witch was killed on the 
spot, the shepherd was lamed for life, and the blind 
horse fell down dead." 

Starting from the first set of four horseshoes in 
the turf, I measured the distance in strides to the 
next set of four, and, roughly speaking, found it to be 
sixty feet. 

Here our roads diverged, Jonathan going westward 
towards the " Cliff," while I took the turn for Sleaford. 

Within three weeks from this meeting with 
Jonathan on the High Dyke, I had business calling 
me to the town of Newark-on-Trent, where, as luck 
had it, the May horse-fair was in full swing, and under 



142 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

the shadow of the Castle by the waterside I met my 
Gypsy friend once more. In a corner of the fair- 
ground, which was crowded with horses, I found 
Jonathan in company with one of the Smiths, and 
the two men were drinking ale out of big horn 
tumblers rimmed with silver. Petulengro had a 
nice vddo, and, going up to it, I read the name 
" Bailey, Warrington." He explained that he was 
breaking new ground, and therefore had taken a 
change of name. Like most Gypsies, he had some 
pets two dogs, a bantam cock and hen, a jackdaw, and 
a canary. As Jonathan had absorbing business on 
hand, I did not see him again until evening, when I 
joined him in his tilt-cart, and we set off towards 
Ollerton. Underneath the vehicle were slung several 
tent rods, notched, or numbered, in order to facilitate 
the erection of the tent. Said he, "I'm expecting 
my nephew to join us to-morrow that's Charley 
he's promised to come after us, so I must lay the 
pairing (signs) for him." 

Let us see how this is done. 

At a crossing of two highways, a few miles out of 
the town, Jonathan went to the hedge-bottom and 
plucked a bunch of long grass, then upon a clearing 
among the tussocks on the wayside he divided the 
bunch into three portions, carefully placing these with 
their tips pointing in the direction which we were 
about to take. 

"There now," said the old man, " I've got to do 
this at every cross-road, for there's no telling exactly 



< 




THE PATRIN 143 

where we shall stop to-night. But Charley is bound 
to find us, for he'll dik avri for mandi's patrin " (look 
out for my sign). 

There are many varieties in the form of the 
patrin, for no two families use exactly the same sign. 
I have heard Gypsies who were about to separate into 
parties, discussing the particular form of patrin to be 
used by the advance guard, so that those who were 
following would know exactly what to look for, and 
whereabouts on the roadside they might expect to 
find it. 

A Suffolk friend, whilst sitting unobserved on a 
fence in the twilight, watched some Gypsies laying a 
patrin formed of small elm twigs, their tips indicating 
the direction taken. A peculiar form of patrin I once 
saw was a wisp of grass tied round a sapling in the 
hedgerow. 

For myself, I never see a patrin on the roadside 
without recalling Ursula's pathetic story in The 
Romany Rye. Readers who know their Borrow will 
remember how the woman followed her husband for 
a great many miles by means of his signs left on the 
wayside. 

Between Kneesall and Wellow a halt was made, 
and, having lit a fire of sticks under the shadow of a 
wood, we warmed some stew in a black pot. As we 
sprawled on the grass, a fox dashed across the road 
with a rabbit dangling from its jaws, and Jonathan 
shouted in the hope of making Reynard drop the 
bunny, but in vain. Then I told him how once I 



144 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

saw a fox capture and kill a rabbit on the slope of a 
warren. He was about to trot off with his prey when 
I gave a lusty shout which made him halt and look 
round at me for a moment. Seeing that I was quite 
a hundred yards away, Reynard dropped the rabbit, 
scratched a hole, and buried his capture, carefully 
spreading the loose earth and stones over the place 
with his sharp nose. Then he made for the woods. 
Now, though I searched diligently for that buried 
rabbit, I could not for the life of me discover it, the 
entire surface of the warren-slope being so dotted 
over with recent rabbit-scratchings strewn with small 
stones. 

While Jonathan was making some small repair of 
the harness, I drew from my pocket a few newspaper 
cuttings and letters, in one of which was a dialogue 
between two Gypsies, a tiny boy and an aged man, 
who had met upon the road 

" BOY. Sd shan, daw, has tuti dik'd. mi dadus ke- 

divus ? 
MAN. Keka, mi tshavo, mandi keka jins tutis 

dadus. Si yov a bawro musk wiv kawlo 

bal? 

BOY. A wait, dova si mi dadus > tats ho. 
MAN. Has^jw a pair o' check rokamiaw ? 
BOY. Awa, dovas mi dadus. 
MAN. Has yov a loli baiengri wiv bawr 

krafnt ? 
BOY. Awa, dat's mi dadus, feth. 



THE PATRIN 145 

MAN. Dawdi, mandi dik& lesti tali o drom odoi a- 
mong'm a puri pair o' tshokaw to tshiv 
opr lesti 's nong pir. 

BOY. Dova si keka mi dadus, at all." 

Translation. 
" BOY. How do, mate. Have you seen my father 

to-day ? 
MAN. No, my boy, I don't know your father. Is 

he a big man with black hair ? 
BOY. Yes, that's my father, sure. 
MAN. Has he a pair of check trousers ? 
BOY. Yes, that's my father. 
MAN. Has he a red waistcoat with big buttons ? 
BOY. Yes, that's my father, faith. 
MAN. Lor, I saw him down the road there a- 

begging an old pair of boots to put on 

his bare feet. 
BOY. That's not my father at all." 

"A bit o' the old style, I call that," was my 
companion's comment. 

After we had yoked in and were about to start 
off, my old Gypsy pulled out his handkerchief to catch 
a sneeze on the wing. He was successful, and, un- 
noticed by him, a little wooden animal fell to the 
grass. On picking it up, I handed back to him a 
dog with a tail broken off and one foot missing, and 
he grabbed at it excitedly, saying 

" I wouldn't nasher (lose) that for a deal." 

This little fetish I remembered to have seen on a 

10 



146 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

former occasion. Jonathan had put it on the top of 
a gatepost and was talking to it, as he puffed a cloud 
of tobacco smoke. For some reason, he was never 
willing to discuss the subject. 

Pursuing our journey, we came to the little town 
of Ollerton, and after a halt at one of the inns we 
travelled onward through Edwinstowe until we reached 
a tract of ferny, heathery country, where we drew up, 
unyoked and unharnessed the horse, and in wonder- 
fully quick time had our little tent erected. You have 
sometimes heard people say, " Poor Gypsies," yet if 
you had travelled with them, as I have, you would 
hear it said, " Poor gawj (gentiles), we feels sorry 
for 'em, cooped up in their stuffy houses." 

There is nothing so healthy as a tent under the 
open sky, with the wind blowing freely around you 
and the birds singing their canticles in the woods 
hard by. I speak from experience in regard to tent 
life, for under Jonathan's tuition I learned long ago 
how to construct a Gypsy's tent of ash or hazel rods 
thrust into the ground and their tapering ends bent 
and fixed into a ridge-pole, the whole being covered 
with coarse brown blankets pinned on with stout 
3-inch pins. (The Gypsies use the long thorns of the 
wild sloe, or thin elder skewers.) In such a tent I 
have slept nightly for many months in succession. 
It is grand to sit at your tent door, building castles in 
the air, which at any rate cost very little in upkeep. 

Bosky Sherwood with its oaks and birches and 
uncurling bracken stretched away towards the west, 




COMRADES. 




GYPSIES AT HOME. 



Photo, Fred Shaw. ] 



[To face p. 146. 



THE GHOST OF THE HAYSTACK 147 

and, strolling along the unfenced road, lo, an old 
woman with her apron full of sticks was seen coming 
down a glade. She turned out to be Rachel Shaw, 
whom we accompanied to where, round a corner, the 
camp of the Gypsy Shaws lay within a secluded alcove. 
This was a pleasant surprise. Here, by the fire, sat 
Tiger Shaw and his three grown-up daughters, fine 
strapping girls. I had often heard of " Fiddling " 
Tiger, whose children were said to be excellent 
dancers. It was said of their father that he could 
play tunes by thumping with his fists upon his bare 
chest. We sat chatting with them till the moon rose, 
a full golden disk, over the woods. The night air 
was sweet with forest smells exhaling from bursting 
oak-buds and sheets of wood hyacinths. A rare place 
for owls is Sherwood, and more than once as we sat 
there, a broad-winged bird came out of the black 
shadows and flew away hooting down the road. 

Old Tiger, who hails from the Low Country 
between Lynn and St. Ives, remembers when the 
" Jack o' Lantern " used to flicker by night in those 
parts in the days of his childhood, and of ghost tales 
he has a rich store. One of his best tales is the 
ghost of the haystack, which I give in my own words. 

" One night a Gypsy and his wife went to take 
some hay from a stack at the back of a mansion. As 
they were getting it, they looked up and saw on the 
top of the stack a wizened old man wearing a three- 
cornered hat, a cut-away coat with silver buttons, 



1 48 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

knee-breeches, silk stockings, buckled shoes, and by 
his side hung a curious sword. At this sight they 
stood amazed, then, gathering courage, the Gypsy 
woman looked up and said 

" * If this is your hay, sir, may we take a handful 
for our pony ? ' 

" The figure on the stack never spoke, but nodded 
his head, so they took a lot, and, departing, left a 
trail of hay reaching from the stack to the camp. 
Next morning the squire of the mansion came along. 

" ' You rascally vagabonds, you thieving rogues, 
how dare you steal my hay ? If you had asked me, 
I'd have given you some.' 

" ' But we did get leave.' 

"'How so?' 

" Then they described the gentleman on the stack, 
giving the details as already told. At this the squire 
turned deathly pale, and laid hold of a fence to steady 
himself. 

" ' Why, you've seen my old grandfather who has 
been dead years and years, and if he gave you leave, 
you can get as much of that hay as you please.' 

44 And you may be sure they did." 

The first grey light of dawn was creeping down 
the road and waking the life of the woods, when we 
were called from our slumbers by a cheery " Hello," 
and Jonathan sprang up to receive his nephew, who 
had already drawn his vddo upon the grass ; indeed, 
before we had dressed, Charley had gathered sticks 



THE GHOST OF THE HAYSTACK 149 

for the breakfast fire, and by the time that our meal 
was finished, the sun was gilding the tree-tops. Now 
we were ready for the departure, and, moving along 
the road, we found the Shaws also taking the drom 
(road). By the side of the vddo walked Tiger's girls, 
their loosened hair blowing in the wind, and going 
along they gathered the yellow cowslips. 

Onward through the gorsy lanes we travelled 
together as far as Mansfield, where our merry party 
became divided, the Boswells taking the highway 
leading through North Derbyshire to Sheffield, the 
Shaws going westward towards Matlock, and myself 
setting off in a southerly direction. 

Just where Robin Hood's Hills begin to rise 
beyond the red-stemmed pines of the Thieves' Wood, 
I came upon a resplendent caravan of the Pulman 
type drawn up on the wayside turf a long way from 
any village. Near by sat two persons, a man past 
middle age, wearing a kilt and tam-o'-shanter, who 
had for companion a pretty lass in her teens, with 
long brown hair. On the ground between them stood 
a big crystal jar, and with long forks the two were 
spearing cubes of preserved ginger. Their backs 
being turned towards me, they gave a little start of 
surprise as I went up, and, raising my hat, inquired, 
"Dr. Gordon Stables?" 

'That's my name," said he, and, inviting me to 
join them on the grass, he dispatched the girl for 
another fork, with which very soon I, too, was spearing 
for ginger. 



150 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Here before me was the "Gentleman Gypsy," 
whose writings had been familiar to me since boy- 
hood. 

"You'll think it strange," said he, "when I tell 
you that I have no memory for faces, but I rarely fail 
to remember the look of any tree I have once seen 
by the roadside." 

When Gypsies were mentioned, the good doctor 
had grateful reminiscences of them. During many 
years of road-travel he had often come upon the 
wandering folk, and he liked them. They were 
cheerful people who never forgot a kindness. They 
were most obliging withal, and readily lent their 
horses to pull his somewhat heavy " house on wheels " 
up the stiff inclines. Altogether, he had a very good 
word for the Gypsies. 

By mid-afternoon I was standing in the church- 
yard at Selston, where lay the fragments of the head- 
stone of a Romany chief, Dan Boswell. An irreverent 
bull was declared to have been responsible for the 
shattered condition of the stone upon which a quaint 
epitaph was now faintly visible. It ran as 
follows : 

"I've lodged in many a town, 
I've travelled many a year, 
But death at length hath brought me down 
To my last lodging here." 

My late father-in-law, formerly a curate of Selston, 
remembered how Gypsies paid visits to this grave and 



THE GHOST OF THE HAYSTACK 151 

poured libations of ale upon it. The adjacent common, 
long since enclosed, was once much frequented by the 
nomad tribes. 

My resting-place that evening was the pleasant 
Midland town of Nottingham, and right soundly I 
slept after my long day on the road. 



CHAPTER XII 
THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 

IN the sunny forenoon I was walking in one of 
the airy suburbs of Nottingham, and, passing by 
the entrance to some livery stables, I noticed on a 
sign-board in prominent yellow letters on a black 
ground the surname of Boss. This it was that 
brought me to a standstill in front of the large 
doors in a high wall. " A Romany name," I said 
to myself. " I ought to find a Gypsy here ; " and, 
pushing open one of the doors, I saw before me 
an office with masses of brown wallflower abloom 
beneath a wide-open window. 

" Come in," said a mellow voice, in response 
to my knock at the little door in the porch, and, 
entering, I was confronted by a handsome man of 
fifty, evidently the master of the establishment, 
neatly dressed, well groomed, and unmistakably 
Romany. 

"Mr. Boss?" 

"That's so." 

" Romanitshel tu shan ? " (You are a Gypsy ?) 

"Avali, baw. Av ta besh tati" (Yes, mate. 
Come and sit down.) The words were accompanied 



152 



THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 153 

by a low, musical laugh that was pleasant to 
hear. He then conducted me to a garden seat 
where we sat and talked in the May sunshine. 
Generally my companion would use the inflected 
dialect of the old-time Gypsies, but at intervals 
he dropped into the pogado tshib, the ''broken 
language," as spoken by the average English 
Gypsy of to-day. For which lapses he apologized : 
" I wonder what my old dad would say to hear me 
rokerm like a posh-rat ? " (talking like a half-breed). 
"One of the old roots was my daddy, who could 
talk for hours in nothing but ' double-words ' ' 
(i.e. inflected Romany). " There were the ' double- 
words ' and the other way the broken language. 
Some of us young upstarts never picked up all 
the ' double-words ' our parents used, and now 
the poor old language is fast going to pieces. 
What with these Gypsy novels and their bits of 
Romany talk my girl reads them to me why, 
everybody is getting to know it. I once heard a 
gentleman say that our language was a made-up 
gibberish. But he was wrong. It's a real language, 
and an old one at that. But, as I was saying, it's 
getting blown very much nowadays. Why, down 
in Kent, Surrey, and Sussex there are whole 
villages where you can hear Romany talked on all 
sides of you. The little shopkeepers know it. 
The publicans can roker (talk Gypsy) a bit. The 
stable-boys throw it at one another. And you 
can't stir in the lanes without meeting a kiddie 



154 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

with the eyes and hair of a Gypsy blest if you 



can." 



Noticing my flow of the kawlo tshib (black 
language, i.e. Romany), Boss tapped me familiarly 
on the knee : "I can't reckon you up at all, raskai 
(parson). How have you picked it all up ? Have 
you been sweet on a Gypsy girl, or have you 
romer'd yekl" (married one). 

Then with all a Gypsy's restlessness, he sprang 
up and led me to his villa residence over the way, 
where, apologizing for the absence of his wife, he 
introduced me to his daughter, a tall girl of twenty 
or more, gentle, refined-looking, with fathomless 
Gypsy eyes and an olive tint in her cheeks. 

"I'm going to take the raskai for a drive," 
said he. " We'll be back for tea." 

In the tastefully ordered drawing-room I chatted 
with Miss Boss, whose Romany rippled melodiously. 
A piece of classical music stood open on the piano, 
and several recent novels lay scattered about. On 
her father's return within a few moments, I caught 
the sound of a horse pawing impatiently outside, 
and presently I was seated with Jack Boss in a 
smart yellow gig behind a slim " blood " animal. 
As we drove through the town my companion 
pointed to a carriage-horse in passing : " Wafodu 
grai si dova " (a trashy horse is that), and when I 
translated his words he chuckled merrily. "To 
think that you know that, and you don't look a 
bit like a Gypsy. Not a drop of the blood in you, 



THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 155 

I should think. You puzzle me, you really do. 
Perhaps you've got it from books. I've heard of 
such works, but have never seen them. I suppose 
you priests can find it all in Latin somewhere? 
Now, to look at me you'd never think would you ? 
that I'd been born in a little tent "(he bent his 
fingers in semblance of curved rods) "and had 
travelled on the roads. But that's years ago, yet 
I like to think of those days. If they were rough 
times, we had plenty of fun. Don't I remember 
going with my old dad to visit the Grays and 
Herons, Lovells and Stanleys, in their tents 
real Gypsies if you like. You don't often dik a 
tatsheno Romanitshel konaw" (see a true Gypsy 
nowadays). "It gave me a deal of pleasure the 
other day to meet Ike Heron in his low-crowned 
topper and Newmarket coat. One of the old 
standards is Ike. Perhaps you know him?" 

By this time we were speeding between green 
hedgerows in the open country, and when at last 
we pulled up at a wayside hostelry, nothing would 
do but I must drink my Gypsy's health. Then the 
horse's head was turned for home. Romany topics 
being still to the fore, and having recently heard 
of the passing of George Smith of Coalville, I 
asked my companion if he had ever met the parent 
of the first " Moveable Dwellings' Bill." 

" I can't say that I ever crossed his path, and 
I don't know that I particularly wanted to. His 



156 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

letters in the papers used to rile my people terribly. 
We weren't quite so bad as he painted us. It was 
plain enough that he knew nothing of the real 
Romanies, nothing whatever. Why, his " gipsies" 
were nothing but the very poorest hedge-crawlers, 
with never a drop of our blood in their bodies. 
The man meant all right, very likely, but as for 
his methods well, the less said about them the better." 

As we parted after tea at his garden gate, I 
wished my Gypsy kushto bok (good luck). 

"A good thing that, Mr. Hall, and may we 
both have more of it." 

I retain very pleasant memories of that afternoon 
spent in the genial company of Mr. Jack Boss, 
whom I have since met several times at horse-fairs 
in different parts of the country. 

It has fallen to my lot to know a number of 
Gypsies who have made their homes in our cities, 
and who, though moving in respectable circles, still 
retain the old secret tongue of the roads, as well as a 
marked spirit of detachment from most of the ideas 
of the people among whom they live. Pride of race 
remains. No matter how high he may climb, the 
pure Gypsy is proud of his birth and secretly despises 
all who are not of his blood. When talking of breezy 
commons, green woodsides, rabbits, pheasants, and 
the like, I have seen the eyes of a house-dwelling 
Gypsy grow wistful as he sighed at the visions and 
memories arising within him. 



THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 157 

The sedentary Gypsies are now largely in the 
preponderance. Not that the tendency to settle is 
entirely a thing of our times. Fifty years ago, the 
Gypsy colony hard by my childhood's home told of a 
movement not then by any means new. Twenty 
years earlier, did not Ambrose (Jasper) Smith say to 
Lavengro ? " There is no living for the poor people, 
the chokengris (police) pursue us from place to place, 
and the gorgios are becoming either so poor or 
miserly that they grudge our cattle a bite of grass by 
the wayside, and ourselves a yard of ground to light 
a fire upon." 

Many years prior to this complaint, the wholesale 
enclosing of the commons, the harassing attentions of 
the press-gang, the flooding of our roads by Irish 
vagrants, the barbaric administration of "justice," 
and the pressure of the times generally, had caused 
many a Gypsy to adopt a sedentary life. Numbers 
of old-fashioned Romany families, finding life no 
longer tolerable in England, were allured to the 
colonies by glowing accounts received from migrated 
friends of the freedom and manifold opportunities 
for making a living across the sea. All along 
since those times it may be said that no year has 
passed without witnessing the settlement of many 
Gypsies. 

Some of my happiest " finds" in the way of 
house-dwelling Gypsies were several aged members 
of the great Boswell clan, living in the town of Derby, 
and to them I owe many reminiscences of Gypsy life 



1 58 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

in bygone days. It was from Lincolnshire Romani- 
tsheh of the same clan-name that I had first learned 
of the Derby colony whose Gypsy denizens were so 
entertaining that if ever I found myself within a few 
miles of their Midland town I could in no way resist 
going to see them. It must have been many years 
since first they settled there, and yet they would talk 
of Lincolnshire as though they had quitted its high- 
ways and byways but yesterday. Moreover, these 
Boswells were related to some of Sorrow's originals, 
a fact which in my eyes lent no small glamour to 
these folk. 

One cool spring evening I stood in a cramped 
yard in Derby, and, tapping at a cottage door, I heard 
a tremulous voice inviting me to enter. Within that 
little room my aged friend, Coralina Boswell, was 
warming her thin hands at a few glowing coals in 
the grate. A flickering candle on the chimney-piece 
cast a fitful yellow gleam on the old lady seated on 
the hearthrug not far from a truckle bed. Wrapped 
about her shawl-wise was a portion of a scarlet blanket 
throwing up her features, swarthy and deeply seamed, 
into strong relief. She begged me to take the only 
chair, which I drew up to the fire. 

" I am glad to see you, my son. I'm a lonely old 
woman. My tshavt (children) are all far away." 
Here she picked up a black pipe which she had 
laid down on my entering, and went OH chatting 
about her family, mentioning a daughter named 
Froniga. 



THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 159 

"That sounds like Veronica." 

" Yes, we name't her after the one that wiped the 
dear Lord's face wiv a diklo " (handkerchief). 

This set her thoughts a-wandering, and she 
went on to tell how last night she saw strange 
things. 

" I was in a wesh (wood), thick and green, and I 
went on and on, and I felt wild beasts rubbing agen 
me, but they never hurted me, 'cos my blessed 
Saviour was a-sitting wiv His angels among the 
clouds just above the roundy tops o' the big trees. 
It was beautiful to see Him there. And sometimes, 
as I sits here, I sees Him come into this room, as 
real as when you came in yourself. 

" What made you come so far to see the likes o' 
me ? It's wery kind o' you. I's travelled all through 
your country, and a nice part it is. I remembers the 
green fields all lying in the sun by the riverside." 
(Clearly she was thinking of the Trentside haunts of 
her clan.) 

" Now, my son, will you tshiv some kosht on 
the yog (put some wood on the fire) and light 
that vdva mumeli (other candle) on the chimbly- 
shelf?" 

On the walls of the room were several black- 
framed funeral cards, in the midst of which was a 
blurred enlargement of a Romany vddo (cart), and, 
seeing my eyes wandering towards this picture, 
Coralina broke out again 

" Ah, that's my rom's (husband) wagon there, as 



160 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

we's travelled in many a year, and there he is on the 
steps a-looking at me so loving-like. I rokers (talk) 
to him sometimes, forgetting he's been gone this 
many a year. 

" Mine's a lonely life, and what would become of 
me I don't know, if I hadn't some kind delations 
living in this gav " (town). 

As I stepped out into the narrow yard, a bright 
moon silvered the battered door and the little criss- 
cross window of Old Coralina's abode, and, walking 
along a crooked street, I thought of the strange life 
of the woman I had just left, an existence in which 
dreams and visions passed for realities. 

In the same town lived another aged Gypsy, Eldi 
Boswell, whose days were chiefly spent on a couch- 
bed smoking and dreaming. Too decrepit to leave 
her cottage, she loved to bask in the glow of the fire, 
and I recall no more picturesque Gypsy figure than 
Old Eldi, with her furrowed face and her long, dark 
ringlets straggling out from beneath a once gorgeous 
diklo. It was easy to see that she had been a beauty 
in her time, and in confidential moments she would 
say that in her young days she had often been taken 
for her cousin, Sanspirela Heron (the lovely wife of 
Ambrose Smith), whose forename was (in Laven- 
gro) changed by Borrow to Pakomovna. Certainly 
one could not help being struck by Old Eldi's large 
eyes. Much has been written about the peculiarity 
of the Gypsy eye, Borrow and Leland in particular 
having enlarged upon this topic. Not of a soft, steady 




PHOTO :- FRED SHAW 



A MOTHER IN EGYPT 



THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 161 

hue like that of a pool in the moorland peat, it is a 
changeful eye of glittering black endowed with a 
strange penetrative quality. 

Born about the year 1820 at Sus worth, a hamlet 
on the Lincolnshire bank of the Trent, Eldi remem- 
bered not only the names, but a host of tales in which 
bygone Gypsies played a part. 

My father, a schoolmate of Thomas Miller at 
Gainsborough on the Trent, used to speak of the 
riverside Gypsies whom Miller presents in his writings: 
e.g. in Gideon Giles the Roper he gives pictures of 
the Boswells, who were probably some of Old Eldi's 
folk. 

For instance, if I had been reading in Borrow's 
Gypsy Word-Book about that famous old rascal, 
Ryley Boswell, I would say to Eldi 

" Did you ever know Old Ryley ? " 

" Sartinly, I minds him well enough. 'Gentle- 
man* Ryley, they used to call him. He was a 
tinker, like the rest of our mushaw (men), but he 
wouldn't carry his creel (grinding-outfit) on his back 
like other people. He must have it on a little cart, 
and a pony to draw it." 

" Is it true that he had more than one wife 
living with him at the same time ? " 

"Well, yes, he had three wives. There was 
Yoki Shuri. You's heard tell of her, sure-ly a wery 
clever woman she was at getting money. Then 
there was Lucy Boswell, Old Tyso's gell, a nicer 
woman never breathed, but Ryley was rough with 



1 62 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

her and made her sleep In a little tent with his dogs 
Musho and Ponto. Nobody blamed her when she 
left him and went to 'Merikay with her six children. 
Then there was Charlotte Hammond as went away 
and took on with Zacky Lee. A lot of those Lees 
round London sprang from them. In his best days 
Ryley had heaps of money and travelled all over the 
country. He had a fine black mare, Bess Beldam, 
and he rode on her a-hunting with the gentry up 
in Yorkshire. He was partic'lar fond o' that country, 
was Ryley. I minds how fine he looked on his 
splendid mare as had silver shoes, and him in a 
coat with golden guineas for buttons. I's heard of 
him riding slap-dash through a camp, springing over 
the tents and scutching the nong tshave (naked chil- 
dren) with his tshupni (whip) : ' I'll let 'em know who 
I am Ryley Boswell, King of the Gypsies/ But 
at last his luck left him, and he took hisself off to 
London with his Yoki Shuri. Even to her as stuck 
to him through all, he was unkind. One day he 
tied her to a cart-wheel and leathered her, 'cos she 
told him of his ill-doings. At London, they lived 
in the Potteries, but he never did no good in the 
big city. One day, as he was skinning a rabbit, 
he scratched his hand and got blood-poisoning, and 
died in a little house underneath the railway arches. 
They buried him in Brompton Churchyard." 

Thus she would spin on at great length about 
Ryley Boswell. 

Another time she would talk about the Herons. 



THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 163 

She was old enough to remember Niabai and Crowy 
(the parents of my aged friend, Ike Heron), as well 
as "handsome" William, "lame" Robert, Miller, 
Lusha, and other members of the same family. Ac- 
cording to her account, these fellows were a tall, 
dark, big-boned, rough set. 

Asked if she had ever known any Gypsy called 
Reynolds, Eldi replied 

" To be sure, there was Reynolds Heron as 
married my Aunt Peggy." 

Then I understood how Ambrose Smith (alias 
Reynolds) came in his last years to adopt for his 
own travelling surname the Christian name of his 
wife Sanspirela's father, Reynolds Heron, concerning 
whom it is recorded that he used to fast on the five 
Fridays next after the season of Lent, in memory 
of the five wounds of the Saviour. 

I used to like to hear Eldi talk of the days 
when artists, squires, and their ladies would pay 
visits to the camp. " There was my husband's Aunt 
* Norna ' her proper name was Lucretia Boswell 
she was a beautiful woman, and Mr. Oakley painted 
a picture of her wearing an orange shawl about her 
shoulders. She never married, and always travelled 
with her sister Deloraifi, who never married neither. 
Ay, when I was a barefooted gell with the wind 
a-blowing my hair about, the painting-gentlemen 
would get me to sit for my picture ; and squires 
would stop us in the lanes and try to pick up our 
words." 



1 64 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Rascalities of which modern Gypsydom knows 
nothing would creep into Eldi's memory-pictures. 
I mean the wayside robberies, the bloody fights, 
the sheep and horse stealing of the rough old days 
of her girlhood. She would get so rapt away in the 
past that she would speak of people dead and gone 
as though they were living still, and, awaking to the 
present, would remark with a deep-drawn sigh " But, 
there, I's seen none of 'em for a wery long time." 

Under the heading of "A Modern Enchantress," 
the following note, describing my Gypsy friend, was 
communicated by an Irish clergyman to The Journal 
of the Gypsy Lore Society of the year 1890 : 

" A short time since, a clergyman stopping at 
my house told me that some time ago, when he was 
assisting in the work of All Saints' Parish, Derby, 
he had residing in the parish a Gypsy family named 
Boswell. One of the family was sick, and he found 
the greatest difficulty in getting into the house ; and 
when he did get in, the sick man told him that the 
sooner he cleared out of the house the better if 
he came to talk about religion. In fact, it was only 
by most judicious management, and by promises 
not to speak about religion till the sick man spoke 
of it first, that he was able to establish a footing 
in the house. But after a little time he got on 
quite friendly terms with the family. He then dis- 
covered that when any of the family were sick an 
old aunt came into the room and seemed to perform 



THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 165 

a kind of incantation over them. His description of 
her performance was very like what we read about 
Eastern Dervishes. She gradually worked herself 
up into a species of frenzy, flinging her arms about 
and muttering a kind of incantation or prayer, until 
her voice ascended into a wild scream and descended 
again into a whisper as the frenzy passed away, 
and she was left lying exhausted and apparently 
in fainting condition on the floor. When she arrived 
at this state she was immediately carried out of the 
sick-room by her relatives." 

A grey morning with a lowering sky and splashes 
of rain had given place in the early forenoon to a 
brilliant day, and sunbeams lit up the Humber's 
wharves and shipping as I stepped from the steam 
ferry upon the Corporation Pier at Hull. Often 
before had I visited this busy seaport on Gypsy 
errands, and the cause of my present visit was to 
seek out the whereabouts of the descendants of Ryley 
Boswell, renowned in Gypsy history. From Borrow's 
Romany Word-Book I had gathered that Ryley 
hailed from Yorkshire, and Eldi Boswell of Derby, 
and the London relatives of Yoki Shuri had informed 
me that Hull was a likely place to locate some of 
Ryley's offspring. A few inquiries brought me the 
information that a Gypsy and his wife kept a little 
grocery store in a back street, which I had no 
difficulty in finding, though, reconnoitring outside the 
shop, I saw in its exterior nothing suggestive of the 



1 66 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Romany. Going inside, I rapped with my foot on 
the floor, and a middle-aged woman, only distantly 
resembling a Gypsy, responded to my summons. 
Pointing to a barrel of ruddy Canadians, I made 
request in Romany for two apples, and immediately 
a change came over her face. The sound of the 
Gypsy language produced a beaming smile where 
solemnity had sat. After making a further purchase, 
I was invited into the living-room, where I had no 
sooner sat down than the woman's husband, looking 
still less like a Gypsy, entered, but on my giving him 
a sd shan (how do ?) he laughed outright, and we 
had some fun. It tickled me not a little to hear the 
pair discussing my physiognomy. 

"Why, he's got Newty's nok (nose), that he has 
now." And the wife asked me if I had brought news 
of a fortune left to them by their Uncle Newty in 
Australia. 

" Newty well, I have heard of him. Wasn't he 
bitshado pawdel (transported) to Hobart Town for 
horse-stealing ? But for whom do you take me ? " 

" One of Newty's sons, for sure. And here's 
your father's photograph " (handing me a daguerreo- 
type in velvet-lined case). " Now look at yourself 
in the glass. Why, you're the wery spit of Uncle 
Newton." 

So I found myself taken for a grandson of Old 
Ryley and Yoki Shuri, and my shopkeeping friends 
were themselves actual grandchildren of those Gypsies 
of renown. Here was a lucky find, and since I was 



THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 167 

out upon a genealogical errand, I availed myself of 
the present opportunity to scoop in a goodly store 
of facts for my increasing collection of Romany 
pedigrees. 

A few years after this visit to Hull, a corre- 
spondent in Australia imparted to me a number of 
facts relating to transported Gypsies. Here are a 
few of his personal recollections of Newton Boswell 
(or Boss), whom he had known as a travelling knife- 
grinder at Launceston in Tasmania. 

" Newton, familiarly known as * Newty,' seemed 
a nice quiet fellow, tall and spare, with the remains 
of good looks. Polite and well-spoken, he was not 
particularly Gypsy-looking, except for his walk and 
build not particularly dark. At the same time he 
did look like a Gypsy. His eyes were of a mild 
brown. He wore a big felt hat and a coloured 
handkerchief. He told me that he had been popular 
with ladies, that one lady who had a large house (in 
New South Wales, I think), and with whom he 
worked as a servant or driver, took a particular fancy 
to him, but he left that situation because he wanted 
to be on the move. He said he did not like remaining 
long in one place. Newton confirmed Borrow's 
description of Ryley, in regard to his wearing gold 
coins as buttons on his clothes, and other details. 
When I read him parts of Borrow's books, he was 
astonished to find in print many facts familiar to 
himself. He once brought round his fiddle for me 



1 68 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

to hear him play, which he did in the energetic, 
spirited style peculiar to the race. He told me that 
he had travelled all over Australia. 

"Once, many years ago, there came up to Newton's 
grinding-barrow in Sydney a handsome, dark, beauti- 
fully dressed, young lady who, looking him fixedly in 
the eyes, said 

" * There's a Romany look about you.' 

" ' I beg your pardon, madam ? ' 

" ' There's a Romany look about you.' 

" ' Why, madam, do I look any different from 
anybody else ? ' 

" ' Well, you are wearing a yellow handkerchief 
round your neck.' 

" ' Can't anybody wear a coloured handkerchief, 
madam ? ' 

" ' Yes, they can, but they don't.' 

" ' Well, madam, I am a Gypsy a pure-bred one 
too my name is Boswell.' 

" ' And so am I a Gypsy my name is 
Lovell.' 

" She gave Newton a sovereign and invited him to 
call at her house. He subsequently learned that she 
had married some well-to-do man (a non-Gypsy) in 
England, who had brought her out to Australia, and 
that on his returning suddenly from a trip to the 
Old Country, he shot her in a passion of jealousy, 
and then shot himself." 

Some weeks later I was again exploring Hull for 



THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 169 

Gypsies. To me few things are more agreeable than to 
hear Romany spoken unexpectedly. Walking along a 
city street, if suddenly amid the din of the traffic I hear 
a Gypsy greeting, I experience a very pleasant emotion. 

In passing along the Anlaby Road, I heard from 
behind me, " Sd shan, rashaia?" (How do, parson?) 
and, looking round, I saw Mireli Heron's son, a jovial, 
harum-scarum fellow who has found a permanent 
home in Hull. I remember him as a travelling 
Gypsy, and his garb was then characteristic and 
becoming, but he had now adopted a coat, collar, and 
tie of the prevailing fashion. The Gypsy of the 
town, I find, has no desire to attract attention to 
himself ; hence he becomes subdued in appearance, 
more's the pity. Having settled, he becomes "re- 
spectable," drab-coloured, unpicturesque. 

At my request young Heron walked across with 
me to the Spring Bank, and on the way thither he 
pulled up at a photographer's shop window, and, 
pointing to a picture, asked 

" What would you call that in Romanes ? " (Gypsy). 

11 Why, a kushti-dik'm rakli (a good-looking girl), 
to be sure." 

" Keka, keka (no, no), I don't mean that. What's 
our word for ' picture ' ? " 

" Dikamengri" 

"Keka, that's the word for a looking-glass." 

" Well, what would you say ?" 

" 5tor-i&*-graph " (Four(4 f )-two( 2)-graph, hence 
photograph). 



1 70 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

The Romany tongue is plastic, and a Gypsy will 
playfully coin new words in this fashion. As a Gypsy 
once said, " There's always a way of saying a thing 
in Romanes, if you can find it out." Certain it is, if a 
Gypsy has no old word for a thing, he will not be long 
in coining a new one. 

Entering the Spring Bank Cemetery together, my 
companion pointed out the grave of Yoki Shuri, the 
faithful consort of Ryley Boswell (or Boss), and upon 
the neat stone I read this inscription, " In memory of 
Shorensey Boss, who died Jan. 18, 1868, aged 65 
years." From a bush planted on the grave I plucked 
a sweet white rose. 

Further, I learned from my companion that Old 
Ryley's son Isaac, commonly called " Haggi," had 
died in Hull only a few years previously. Like his 
brother Newton, he too had visited Australia, and, 
returning to this country, had settled in Hull, and was 
daily seen in the streets with a grinding-barrow. A 
girl whom Haggi brought with him from Australia 
told me (this was a few years later) that when as a 
child she was naughty, Haggi would frighten her by 
saying, "If you're not good, Old Ryley will get you, 
and he'll maw tut " (kill you). 

One summer, when holidaying with my family at 
the breezy Yorkshire coast- town of Bridlington, I 
heard that there were Romanies living in a house at 
a little inland town, and, cycling over the hills, I spent 
a pleasant hour in the home of a Gypsy, who in a 
sweet voice sang the following ballad : 



THE GYPSY OF THE TOWN 171 

"There were seven Gypsies all in a row, 
And they sang blithe and bonny, O ! 
They sang until at last they came 
Unto the yellow castle's hall, O ! 

The yellow castle's lady, she came out, 
And gave to them some siller, O ! 
She gave to them a far better thing, 
'Twas the gold ring from her finger, O ! 

At ten o'clock o' night her lord came home, 

Enquiring for his lady, O ! 

The waiting-maid gave this reply, 

She's gone with the roving Gypsies, O ! 

Come saddle me my milk-white steed, 
Come saddle for me my pony, O ! 
That I may go by the green-wood side, 
Until I find my lady, O ! 

So all through the dark o' night he rode, 
Until the next day's dawning, O ! 
He rode along the green-wood side, 
And there he found his lady, O ! 

Last night you laid on a good feather bed, 
Beside your own married lord, O ! 
To-night in the cold open fields you lie, 
Along with the roving Gypsies, O ! 

What made you leave your home and your lands? 
What made you leave your money, O ! 
What made you leave your own married lord, 
To go with the roving Gypsies, O ! 

What cares I for my home and my lands, 
What cares I for my money, O ! 
What cares I for my own married lord, 
I'll go with the roving Gypsies, O ! " 

On leaving, I placed a silver coin in the singer's 
tawny palm, whereupon she sprang from her stool by 
the fire and gave me a resounding kiss on the cheek. 



CHAPTER XIII 
WITH THE YORKSHIRE GYPSIES 

As I have said, Gypsies settled in houses now greatly 
outnumber their roving brethren. Hence it has come 
to pass that nearly every town in the land possesses 
a Bohemian quarter where you are met by dark faces 
and sidelong glances speaking of Gypsy blood. Nor 
can the student of Gypsy life and manners afford to 
neglect these haunts despite their dinginess, for as 
often as not they contain aged Gypsies whose 
memories are well worth ransacking for lore and 
legend, and in " working " these queer alleys, one has 
often picked up choice reminiscences of bygone Gypsy 
life. 

One morning I was walking under the grey walls 
of Scarborough Castle, and, coming out upon the 
sparkling North Bay, I ran into the arms of a mush- 
fakir (umbrella-mender), who looked as if there rolled 
in his veins a blend of Scottish and Irish blood, but 
I was mistaken, for he told me he was Welsh and 
bore the name of Evans. Far-travelled, his pere- 
grinations had ranged from Aberdeen to Penzance, 
and seldom have I met a man of his class so over- 
flowing with varied knowledge. He asked me if I 



172 




HOUSE-DWELLING GYPSIES. 



Photo, Fred S/ta-w.] 



{To face p. 172. 



WITH THE YORKSHIRE GYPSIES 173 

knew William Street in Scarborough, but as a new- 
comer I admitted that I had not so much as heard of 
the locality, and made request for further information. 

" I reckon William Street '11 just suit you," he 
declared. " It's full o' tinkers and grinders, Gypsies 
and sweeps, and the like." 

" A regular Whitechapel," I suggested. 

" Now you've hit it," said he laughingly. 

I asked him where he was residing in that street. 

"At the Model, to be sure, and if you ax for 
Long Ambrose, you'll find they all know me." 

I further inquired of him as to the Gypsy 
inhabitants of that quarter, and he gave me a list 
of the "travellers" who had settled there. These 
I called upon leisurely during a holiday extending 
over three weeks. One day I would look up one 
or two of them, and a few days later I renewed 
my visitation by dropping in upon several others, 
and so on until this little gold-mine was exhausted. 

From the sea-front it was a change scarcely 
Aladdin-like to find oneself in smoky William Street, 
a byway shut in by dingy walls, which in the deepen- 
ing dusk took on an air of mystery. A little way 
down the street, I knocked at the door of Inji 
Morrison, but as there was no response I lifted the 
latch, and, putting my head inside the room, I spake 
aloud, " Putsh man te av adr" (Ask me to come 
inside). A sound of shuffling feet was heard, with 
tripping steps in the rear, and an old crone tottered 
forward, along with her granddaughter, dark-eyed 



1/4 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

and twenty-five. Following them into the kitchen, 
I saw the floor scattered with willow pegs in various 
stages of manufacture. The pair accorded me a 
genial welcome, though they scanned me curiously 
as if wondering what sort of Gypsy I might be. 
When I mentioned some black foreign Romanitsheh 
whom I had seen, the old mother remarked 

" I shouldn't like to dik lendi (see them) ; they 
would make me think of the Beng" 

Then, as the old lady was dull of hearing, her 
granddaughter (in an aside) said 

" You mustn't mind, rai, what granny says ; 
she's getting old. As for the Beng, there ain't no 
sich pusson, I don't think. There's 'nothing bad 
comes from below. There's the springs we drink 
from, and the dearie little flowers we love to gather. 
And there's nothing but good comes from above ; 
the blessed sunshine and the light o' moon and the 
rain that falls why, all of 'em's good things, ain't 
they ? The badness is on'y what people makes." 

Now through the open door leading to a cramped 
backyard came a hairy terrier, followed by a small 
boy with saucy eyes and long, black curls falling 
upon the shoulders of his ill-fitting coat. A great- 
grandson from a few doors lower down was this 
quicksilver pixy, who sat himself at our feet and 
cuddled the terrier near a few red embers in the 
grate. 

"Mend the fire, my gal," said Old Inji. And 
when the wood blazed and lit up the room, granny 



WITH THE YORKSHIRE GYPSIES 175 

filled her pipe from shavings cut from a cake of 
black tobacco. 

" I'll never go to Seamer Fair no more now 
my man's dead. 'Tain't likely as I could. 
'Twouldn't be the same, would it ? " 

" Seamer Fair, when is that? " 

"Why, next week. There'll be dosta Roman- 
itsheh odoi (many Gypsies there) and music and 
dancing. Ay, and fighting too." 

Then she fell to rambling about her former life 
on the road. 

Another day I sat with Vashti Boswell in her 
cottage down one of the numerous yards branching 
out of William Street. Handing me a rude stool, 
the work of some Gypsy carpenter, she sat herself 
on the fender. On her forehead was a deep indenta- 
tion which she said was made by a blow from a 
poker at the hand of a mad relative. In vivid 
words she described the occasion of that blow, and 
one pictured the desperate struggle between the 
two women, till Vashti, fainting from loss of blood, 
fell in a heap on to the floor, but not before Izaria, 
a stalwart fellow, attracted by his mother's screams, 
had rushed into the house and snatched the weapon 
from the mad woman's hand. 

A little higher up the street lived this same son 
and Vashti's nephew, Joel Boswell, who were sent 
for, a neighbour's child acting as messenger. I 
have often noticed that Gypsies will call in their 



1 76 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

kinsfolk who live near to share in the pleasure and 
excitement, likewise in the " grist," implied by a 
rafs visit. Much to my surprise Vashti knew all 
about Gypsy Court at Lincoln, and little wonder 
when she presently told me that her husband was 
a half-brother of my old friend, Jumping Jack. 

Talking of the past, Vashti declared that very few 
Gypsies in her day went to church for marriage. 

" My man and me jumped the besom, we did. 
That's how we was married. Like many more, 
we didn't get parson d, but we thought our old way 
just as binding as if we'd been to church. My man 
were a good 'un as long as he lived, and weren't that 
enough for the likes o' me ? " 

"Then you remember Jumping Jack ?" I asked. 

" Awa (yes), and he could jump too. He once 
cleared the backs of three horses standing side by 
side, and I's seen him jump the common gate times 
and agen. When my husband was living, we used 
to travel Lincolnshire, and now lots of us are living 
in houses scattered all over the tern " (country). 

At this juncture, Joel disappeared for a few 
moments, and on his return bore a large jug of 
foaming brown ale, which was his way of welcoming 
the rai, and pipes were soon in full blast. 

It was from Joel's lips that I heard about 
Mordecai Boswell, who died at Retford many years 
ago. Mordecai was a fine-looking man, his hair 
falling in long curls. He wore a dark green coat 
with big pearl buttons and a broad collar, while his 



WITH THE YORKSHIRE GYPSIES 177 

low-crowned hat might well have been a family 
heirloom. He had a dancing booth at fairs, and 
would fiddle, while his sister Matilda danced and 
played the tambourine. Frampton Bos well used to 
join him at the St. Leger and other big races, and 
they didn't do badly with the dancing booth. 

One day a gawjo was chatting with Mordecai, 
and the talk turned upon hotshiwitshi (hedgehog). 

" I couldn't fancy eating that creature," said the 
gawjo. " It makes me feel queer to think of it." 

"Look here," said Mordecai, 'Til bet you a 
half-crown that before many days are past you'll have 
had some." 

The gawjo grinned and shrugged his shoulders. 
Time went on, and the gawjo one day came upon 
Mordecai and his family having dinner on the 
roadside. 

" Won't you have a bite with us ? " said Mordecai. 

" What's that on the dish ? " asked the gawjo. 

" Duck," replied the Gypsy, with a grave face. 
The gawjo sat down and was soon enjoying what 
looked remarkably like a duck's leg. When the 
meal was over and pipes were brought out, Mordecai 
got a-talking. 

"Well, my pal, where have you been since I 
saw you last, and how have you been faring ? Has 
any Gypsy got you to swallow a bit o' hotshiwitshi ? " 

"No, not likely. Didn't I tell you that that 
nasty creature should never touch my lips ? " 

" Then you've done it to-day. You've had hotshi 



12 



1 78 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

for dinner, and you seemed to enjoy one of the legs 
finely. You smacked your lips over it anyway. 
Hand up that half-crown." 

He did so, and, turning pale, walked away. 

"I say, rai" remarked Izaria, "did you know 
there's some of the black Herrens (Herons) stopping 
at Robin Hood's Bay, not far from here ? I seen 
'em at Scarborough a little while back, and I shouldn't 
wonder if some of 'em's at Seamer Fair next 
week." 

Making a mental note of these two places, I re- 
solved to visit them. Then, happening to mention 
the mush-fakir whom I had encountered near the 
Castle, Joel said, " I once had an uncle as was very 
fond of this here town, I mean Elisha Blewitt, as 
married Mordecai's sister Sybarina ; my uncle was 
a mush-fakir, but he's been dead for years. As for 
that there man you spoke of, I believe there's a 
long-legged gero (man) in the same line o' business 
living at the Model." 

Next day in the same quarter I waylaid Fennix 
Smith in company with a Gypsy named Swales, who 
were about to set forth in a two-wheeled cart drawn 
by a thin-legged pony, their destination being Malton. 
On their way home they would call at " No Man's 
Land," where they expected to find some of their 
travelling friends drawing up for Seamer Fair. Be- 
tween their legs I noticed a lurcher curled up, and, 
pointing to it, I said, " I see you mean to have some 
sport on the way." 



WITH THE YORKSHIRE GYPSIES 179 

" Yes, and we shan't forget to bring you some- 
think, pass'n, if we has good luck." 

After the pony-cart had rattled out of the street, 
I turned into the yard of the Model, where several 
grinding-barrows stood under a lean-to, but I failed 
to recognize Long Ambrose's property among them, 
and, entering the house, I learned that my mush-fakir 
might be expected home at any time. Walking up 
the street, I came upon a stalwart Gypsy woman 
standing at her open door. Her husband, I gathered, 
was a tinker, and not a prosperous one at that, 
judging by his wife's tattered gown and woebegone 
air. During our talk about her relations who 
travelled Lincolnshire, two pretty little children 
continually tugged at her gown. 

"If you go to Seamer Fair, rai, you'll be sure 
to find some of my folks, the Smiths, along with 
the Herrens and Youngs." 

Just then I heard a man whistling, and round 
the corner appeared Long Ambrose pushing his 
barrow. In the yard of the Model we conversed, 
and on his referring to Gloucester, I asked if he 
knew any of the Carews, horse-dealers of that city. 

" Oh yes, there was one of them sold a dyed 
horse to match a black carriage-^flz, and a wery 
' fly ' cove he was, but he got found out, and had 
to do 'time' for that affair." My mush-fakir seemed 
to have travelled everywhere. 

Mindful of the intimation let fall by Izaria Boswell 



i8o THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

that there were black Herons to be found at Robin 
Hood's Bay, I made my way thither afoot one 
brilliant July morning. A cool air from the sea 
tempered the sun's powerful rays, and it was good to 
inhale the sweetness of the summer meadows where 
the haymakers were busy. Overhead the bent- 
winged silvery gulls passed to and fro, and among 
the wayside bushes yellow - hammers trilled their 
song which in childhood we translated by the words, 
" a little bit of bread and no cheese." 

Perched on the top of a lofty cliff overlooking 
the North Sea, the village of Robin Hood's Bay 
seems almost to overhang a precipice, and on stormy 
nights the wind roaring up the cliff flings the salt 
spray far inland. The whole of the coast hereabouts 
is a delicious panorama of rock-bound bays and 
coves. 

On arriving at the village I had no difficulty in 
locating my Gypsies. A fisherman, sun-tanned and 
jovial, pointed a stubby finger towards a grassy plot 
whereon stood three caravans, and it was with a thrill 
of pleasure that I drew near. Yes, there on the 
short turf sat one-armed Josh and Nettie, his wife. 
Our greetings were hearty, and as we talked, up came 
one of the Youngs. 

" You are just the man I want to see, rashai" and, 
taking out a crumpled newspaper, he said, " There's 
something in here about stopping the Gypsies from 
camping at Scarborough." 

After a hunt through the paper, I came upon a 



WITH THE YORKSHIRE GYPSIES 181 

report of a meeting of the wiseacres of the town, and 
read their speeches about the " nuisances " said to be 
created by the Gypsies. 

"But there ain't any Gypsies there now wes come 
away," said Young. " The people stopping there are 
only poor didakais (half-breeds) and mumpari. We 
don't call them Gypsies." 

The speaker was one of the purest-bred English 
Gypsies I have ever met. 

Pure Gypsies draw a marked line between dirty, 
low-class van-dwellers and themselves ; but unfortun- 
ately the world at large makes no such distinction, 
immensely to the detriment of the true Romanitshel. 

East Yorkshire is a favourite country with the 
Herons and Youngs. Both Josh and Nettie love it 
well, as did also some of their forelders. It was at 
Robin Hood's Bay that Nettie's Aunt Whipney died 
long years ago. I well remember a little tale about 
this old Gypsy. Tinker Ned, her husband, had 
" found " a kani (hen) for the pot. It was a small 
one, and Whipney cooked it. When the tinker came 
home at a later hour than he had promised, he asked 

" Where's that kanil Have you cooked it ? " 

His wife answered by putting two fingers into her 
mouth, meaning, that she had consumed the little 
fowl. Thereupon Tinker Ned picked up a loose tent 
rod and gave her a good thrashing. 

Close by sat Nettie's daughter-in-law, Isabel, and 
her children, bonny bairns, tumbled happily on the 
grass. As I looked at these Gypsies, all of them 



1 82 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

pictures of blooming health clear-eyed, clean-limbed, 
bare-headed in sun and breeze I reflected not without 
sadness on the fact that the tendency of modern legis- 
lation is to curtail and render more difficult the free, 
roving life of these children of Nature. 

It was now late in the afternoon, and over tea we 
talked of other times and old Gypsy ways. Nettie 
told of her own mischievous tricks when she was a 
child, how she used to hide her mammy's pipe in a 
tuft of grass near the tent, and then watch her hunt 
up and down for it ; her sister Linda and she would 
have a good laugh to themselves over the trick, and 
then what tales their old mother would tell them by 
the fire o' nights. One of these stories related to a 
horse belonging to some Irish Gypsies, the O' Neils. 

He was an aged animal and a favourite of the 
family. One day he fell down and broke his back. 
Quite still he lay, and, taking him for dead, they 
removed his skin, but in the morning he came and 
kicked at the vddo. He was a sight awful to behold. 
Now it happened that near at hand lay a pile of sheep- 
skins, so they hurriedly clapped some of these on the 
poor horse and bound them round and round with 
willow withies. In a little while the animal recovered, 
and the O'Neils used to clip a crop of wool off him 
every year. And since the willow sticks took root 
and grew, the Gypsies were able to cut materials 
sufficient to make many baskets. 

Folk-stories of this character are classified by 
lorists as " lying tales," and in a subsequent chapter 



WITH THE YORKSHIRE GYPSIES 183 

I shall give a sheaf of such stories familiar to all our 
Boswells and Herons, wherever you may light upon 
them. 

It was Nettie's daughter-in-law who, after listening 
to a ghost tale from me, protested 

" Mulos (ghosts) Pll tell you what I thinks about 
'em. Folks who die and go to the good place won't 
never want to leave it, and as for people what go to 
the bad place, I reckons they'll have to stop there. 
'Tain't likely they'll ever have a chance to come 
back." 

Looking up the footpath leading to the camp, I 
saw Isabel's little boy dragging a dead bough behind 
him. Said Josh, waving his stump of an arm towards 
the approaching child 

" The worst thing we Gypsies does nowadays is 
to pick up a dead stick or two for the fire, and if we 
goes into a wesh (wood) for a little shuski (rabbit) for 
the pot, well, I reckon there's plenty left for them as 
has a deal too many. If we sets a snare, it ain't so 
cruel as the keeper's teethy traps, and the lord and 
lady as employs the keeper talks in the Town Hall 
agen cruelty to animals so I hear. Oh dear, it 
makes me larf ! " 

As I turned to take a farewell look at the group, 
I saw the Gypsies stretched at full length, puffing 
their pipes, while away beyond them lay the deep 
blue sea, and the rugged coast trending north and 
south in exquisite bays. It was a sight to cherish in 
the memory. 



1 84 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

A cool rain in the early hours had given place 
to a hot July morning, as I entered the village of 
Seamer already astir with its horse-fair. Making my 
way between knots of colts and droves of ponies at 
whose heels Gypsy boys were waving pink glazed 
calico flags, I went to where one of the North-Country 
Smiths stood gesticulating before a group of prospec- 
tive buyers of colts, and discovered in him Elias 
Petulengro's son, Vanlo, whom I had known at 
Lincoln. Presently he walked across to me and held 
out a hand of friendship. All around us were York- 
shire travelling folk, and while chatting with Vanlo I 
witnessed a curious thing. Three policemen stood 
talking together, and one of them had his hands 
behind his back. A Gypsy, sidling up, slipped a half- 
crown into this policeman's hand. I saw his fingers 
close over the coin, yet he never by the slightest sign 
betrayed this act of the Gypsy, which passed un- 
observed by the other constables. Petulengro, who 
witnessed it, explained that this sort of thing is not 
uncommon. It obtains little privileges. "The 
muskro " (policeman), said he, "will turn a blind eye 
to that Gypsy's fire on some wayside to-night." 

Strolling through the fair, I spied old Clara Smith 
smoking a black clay under a stone wall, and by her 
side sat her daughter Tiena and one of her male 
relations, whom I had once met on a bleak fell in 
North- West Yorkshire. It was he who told me the 
following tale as he sat making pegs among the 
ling : 




PHOTO FRED SHAW 



GYPSY LAD. 



WITH THE YORKSHIRE GYPSIES 185 

" When I was a boy, I was taking puvengris 
(potatoes) from a field, and I looked up, and there 
stood a tall man staring at me over the hedge. 

"'You come along with me,' he shouted, and, 
taking him for a policeman in plain clothes, I obeyed, 
and went with him to a big building which I thought 
was the Sessions House. There were many people 
inside, and a gentleman was talking to them. At last 
he looked hard at me, and said, 'Thou art the man.' 

" So I jumped up and said, ' Yes, I know I am, but 
I didn't mean to do it. It was my uncle as made me 
go. I'll never steal potatoes no more.' And because 
I would keep on talking like a Philadelphia lawyer, 
they turned me out without passing sentence on me. 
Next day I was walking with my uncle, and the tall 
man as took me off to the place, passed by. ' That's 
the policeman as arrested me,' says I. 

" 'Why, you silly boy,' said my uncle, 'that there 
man is the evangelist, and he took you to his chapel, 
he did. 1 " 



CHAPTER XIV 

A NIGHT WITH THE GYPSIES THE SWEEP OF 
LYNN LONDON GYPSIES ON EPSOM DOWNS 

" IT ain't fit to turn a dog out o' doors, that it ain't, 
so you'd better make up your mind to stop all night." 

Saying this, Gypsy Ladin closed the porch door, 
but not without difficulty, for a gale was battering 
upon the wayside bungalow. Half an hour ago, as 
I hurried along the willow-fringed "ramper" on my 
way to see this old Romany pal, black rain-clouds, 
bulging low over the fenland wapentake, had foretold 
an approaching storm ; and now with the descent of 
the May night the tempest had burst in full fury upon 
the land. Torrential rain, swift swelling rushes of 
wind, and brilliant flashes of lightning made me glad 
to be housed with my friend in his fire-lit room. 

Hidden by a dense hedge from the highway, this 
Gypsy abode stood back amid a cluster of apple trees, 
and a daylight view of the place would have revealed 
to you an entirely nondescript habitation, with here 
a home-made porch, and there a creeper-grown 
extension sheltering a green caravan in which Ladin 
and his wife Juli have travelled many a mile over 
the smooth causeways of the far-reaching flats. 



A NIGHT WITH THE GYPSIES 187 

Let me picture for you the tiny apartment where 
we now sat happily blowing clouds of tobacco smoke. 
Over the wide fireplace, which occupied one side of 
the room, rose a high mantelpiece surrounded by 
coloured prints of Derby winners, divided one from 
another by glistening horse-bits and brass-bound 
whips. Opposite the fireplace a small casement 
looked out upon a bulb-garden aglow by day with 
hyacinths, tulips, and narcissi a common sight in 
the Fens. The side walls were adorned with 
portraits of Gypsy relatives deceased and living, and 
the brazen ornaments on parts of a van-horse's 
harness gleamed in the rays of the pendant lamp. 
Before the fire sat my friend and his wife, a tall, 
striking woman of the old-fashioned Draper clan, 
and along with us were two youthful sons of the 
house, Rinki and Zegul, smart, quick-eyed fellows, 
who occupied a home-made bench opposite my seat 
of honour in the chimney corner. At our feet lay 
a dark lurcher, a type of dog whose peculiar qualities 
are well appreciated by Gypsies. 

I have already spoken of my friend as " Gypsy " 
Ladin, but his ruddy complexion and grey eyes are 
scarcely suggestive of the pure Romany. About the 
good " black blood " of his wife, however, there can be 
no manner of doubt. Probably my friend would agree 
with the roving gawjo, who, having married a pure 
Gypsy, declared that the mingling of gentile and Romany 
crafts was a desirable blending of qualities. Did not 
Lazzy Smith, renowned in Gypsydom, once say 



1 88 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

" Ain't it in the Bible that God's people should 
multiply and be as one? It ain't no sort o' use at 
all a-goin' agen the dear blessed Lord's words. 
Why, a cross is good, even if it be only in wheat, 
ain't it, now ? " 

Belonging to East Anglia, Ladin's forelders have 
mingled a good deal with the Herons who formerly 
travelled the counties bordering upon the North Sea. 
Himself akin to the Chilcots and Smiths, Ladin has 
inherited not a few traditions of these families. 

" Do you remember Yoki Shuri Smith?" I asked. 

" You mean Old Ryley's wife ? Ay, I mind her 
well, but Ryley I don't remember. Shuri Ladin 
shivered as he uttered the name was looked upon 
as a tshovihawni (witch) by our folks. We allus 
thought it unlucky to meet her on the road of a 
morning. I've known my folks turn back, saying, 
' It ain't no use going out to-day/ ' 

After a discussion of Shuri's ''powers," I 
ventured upon a tale of my own experience of a 
witch who lived in a parish of which I was formerly 
curate-in-charge. 

About a fortnight after my arrival at the Rectory, 
our aged gardener took me into his confidence. 

" Excuse me askin' if you've seen Old Betty what 
lives agin the well at the bottom of the lane ? You 
must mind you don't never get across wi' that woman, 
or she'll sartinly mek things awk'ard for you." 

The man's meaning was that Betty had " peculiar 
powers." A widow of sixty or more, she attended 



A NIGHT WITH THE GYPSIES 189 

no place of worship, and rarely covered her grey 
head with anything more than a shawl. Besides her 
allowance from the parish, she managed to make a 
little money by selling ointments for wounds and 
sores, and many a cure has been wrought by means 
of her home-made compounds. My first meeting 
with her was on the Feast of St. Thomas, called in 
those parts " Mumping Day." At my door stood 
Old Betty asking for a bit of silver, and a few yards 
behind her came several other widows. Hesitatingly 
I stood just over the threshold, when suddenly, before 
I could step aside, a lot of soft snow slid from the 
house-roof with a splash upon my bare head, while 
Old Betty and her companions laughed loud and 
long. The village gossips duly spread it abroad that 
Betty had, by her "peculiar powers," brought down 
the snow upon the parson's head. Anyway, I 
resolved for the future to be more prompt in the 
exercise of that unfailing charm against Betty's witch- 
craft a silver shilling. 

" Did you ever see my Aunt Sarah at Blackpool ? " 
said Juli. 

"Yes, I once had tea in her tent on the South 
Shore. Did she and her rom (husband), Edward, 
ever travel on this side of England?" 

" Sartinly, they did. Ned's daddy, Tyso, lies 
buried in your country. Poor old man, many's the 
time I've heard the tale about him and the shepherd 
boy." 



I 9 o THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

" What was that ? " 

"Well, Tyso was once katskin (camping) on a 
Norfolk common and got a-talking with a boy tending 
sheep. Says the boy to Tyso 

" ' I can tell you where there's a buried box full o' 
money.' 

" ' Show me the place/ says Tyso. 

" The boy took him to a little low, green hill, and 
then they fetches a spade and digs into it. Sure 
enough they bared the lid of an old iron chest with a 
ring on top, and both of 'em tugged hard at the ring, 
but the box wouldn't budge an inch. Just then Tyso 
swore, and the ring slipped outen their hands, and 
down went the box and they never see'd it no more." 

" One time the Herrens (Herons) used to come 
about here a good deal. There was handsome 
William, a wery notified man he were. Then there 
was Old Niabai and Crowy. Their son Isaac had 
a boy born at Lynn close by here that was tza. 
You'll know him sure-ly. I've often met Ike's half- 
brother Manful in Lynn. I can see him now, a little 
doubled-up old man. I 'spects you's heard tell of 
Manful's diamond ? One day in a public, he catch'd 
sight of something shining among the sand they 
sanded the slab floors in them days and, whatever 
the thing was, it shone like a bit of cut-glass, and at 
first he thought it wasn't worth stooping for, but 
when the taproom was empty he picked it up, and 



A NIGHT WITH THE GYPSIES 191 

dawdi! if it wasn't a diamond as big as a cobnut. 
So away he takes it to a pawnbroker's shop, and the 
head man told him it were worth hundreds of pounds. 
My dear old dad once saw it with his own eyes." 

While the black trees shuddered outside in the 
tempest, Ladin next told a story I shall never forget. 

"When my uncle, Alfred Herren, and his wife 
Becky was a-travelling in Shropshire, they draw'd 
their wagon one night into a by-lane so they 
thought just outside the village, but daylight 
show'd 'em it were a gentleman's drive leading up 
to a red mansion among the trees. Did my uncle 
pull out when he found he'd made a mistake ? No, 
for a wery good reason he stopped where he was. 
His missis had been took ill in the night, and a little 
gell were born. The doctor gave no hopes at all for 
the wife, and just when things looked blackest, a 
groom on horseback came up from the mansion, and, 
slamming on the wagon-side with his whipstock, 
shouted 

" ' Clear out of here, you rascally Gypsies, afore 
my master sees you.' 

" Uncle Alfred put his head outen the door, and 
said 

" * Stop it, my man. There's a woman a-dying in 
here. I'd take it kind of you to go to the big house 
yonder and ask the good lady to come and pray by 
a dying Gypsy.' 



192 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

" Off goes the groom with the message, and soon 
the squire's lady come along carrying a basket of 
good things, and did all she could for Becky, but 
the poor thing died. After that the parson came to 
christen the baby. 

" ' What name ? ' he asks. 

" ' Flower o' May,' says my uncle. The wagon 
stood under a may-tree, and the flowers were drop- 
ping on the grass like snow. Now, the squire and 
his lady come along. Says he 

" * The Almighty has never given us the blessing 
of a child, so we would like to adopt this little girl 
of yours and bring her up as our own. Here ' (hold- 
ing up a bag) 'are one hundred sovereigns. Take 
them, my good man, and let us have the baby.' 

11 ' Nay,' says my uncle, 'you may keep your bag 
of gold. I can't never part wi' my little gell.' 

" Years went by, and at last my uncle fell ill and 
died. Then my own parents took care of the little 
gell, and they changed her name to Rodi, for they 
couldn't abide to hear the name Flower o' May no 
more; it reminded 'em too sadly of them as had 
gone." 

On arising from my couch next morning, it was 
a pleasure to find that the air was moderately quiet, 
and patches of blue were showing between the rolling 
clouds. Breakfast over, my friends showed me round 
their garden gay with flowering bulbs. Gypsy-like, 
they had numerous pets a pair of long-eared owls, 



THE SWEEP OF LYNN 193 

a jackdaw, a goldfinch, some dainty bantams, and two 
or three pheasants in a wired poultry- run. Now the 
Gypsies came as far as the highway to see me off. 
Tender leaves and twigs strewed the road, as I 
mounted my bicycle, and after pedalling through 
several villages, the roofs of King's Lynn began to 
appear ahead. A turn in the road at last brought 
me to a bridge spanning the broad river Ouse dis- 
coloured by flood- water. In a yard of the tavern just 
across the river, the chimneys of several Gypsy vans 
were to be seen. I therefore dismounted to make 
inquiries. Sunning himself on a bench outside the 
inn, sat a tall Gypsy man emptying a mug of Norfolk 
ale. 

" Sd skan, baw?" (How do, mate?) said I, 
sitting down beside him. He turned out to be one 
of the Kilthorpes, and his pals in the yard were 
Coopers from London. 

An hour or two later, as I was loitering at a street 
corner in Lynn, I observed not far away a two-wheeled 
hooded cart drawn by a tired horse. From under a 
dark archway they emerged, and, : coming into the 
light, I noticed an old woman under the hood smoking 
a pipe, and just then, from behind the cart stepped 
a sweep, who disappeared into a coal-yard, carry- 
ing a sack in his hand. Following him, I heard 
him say 

" Half a hundred- weight, missis." A burly woman, 
having weighed out the coal, poured it into the sack 



194 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

a bottomless receptacle and the black lumps were 
scattered about the floor. 

" Muk man peser" (Let me pay), said I, from 
behind the sweep. Whereupon the grimy old fellow 
looked round with an amazed stare. 

" Pariko tuti, rai " (Thank you, sir), he stammered 
out, and, producing a piece of string, he tied the sack 
bottom securely, and the two of us picked up the 
littered coal. 

" Where are you living ? " I asked. 

" Pawdel the pdni" (Across the water) "in West 
Lynn. We've been away for three months, and we're 
going round to our house now. Come across to- 
night. Anybody will tell you where Old Stivven 
lives." 

When the yellow street-lamps were twinkling in 
the dusk, I groped my way down a long dark passage, 
and at the foot of a flight of slippery wet steps, found 
a black coble moored. For ten minutes or so I 
waited till a man in a jersey appeared and rowed me 
across the broad, rolling Ouse. At the " White 
Swan " inn I made inquiry for my sweep, and was 
given an address, and discovered a sweep, but, alas, 
he wasn't my man at all, and I began to think Old 
Stephen had tricked me. But now I was given 
another address, where I found my man and his wife 
in their living-room, amid a spread of blankets and 
bedding airing in front of a bright fire. For a while 
we talked, and then at the sweep's suggestion we 
moved across to the "White Swan," 



THE SWEEP OF LYNN 195 

Stephen had formerly travelled with Barney 
Mace, an uncle of Jem, the world-famed pugilist, who 
had a boxing booth which he took to country fairs 
up and down the land, and in order to tdder the gawje 
(draw the gentiles), Stephen and Poley (Barney's 
son) would engage in a few rounds just outside the 
booth. 

The sweep had known Old Oseri Gray, commonly 
called " Sore-eyed Horsery," who died some years 
ago at King's Lynn. He was a renowned Gypsy 
fiddler. If he heard a band play a tune, he would go 
home and reproduce the air on his violin, putting in 
such variations, grace-notes, shakes, and runs, that 
none of his fellows could compare with him. 

Among the sweep's reminiscences was a curious 
story about an eccentric Gypsy who had a fancy for 
carrying his coffin in his travelling van. The man 
had a daughter, a grown woman, who went about 
with him, his wife having died some years before. 
One afternoon while she was away with her basket 
in the village, her father took out the coffin and was 
busy repainting it when a thunderstorm descended. 
The Gypsy took shelter in his vddo, which was drawn 
up near an elm tree on a bit of a common. Picture 
the grief and dismay of his daughter on returning 
to find her father a corpse, for a flash of lightning 
had struck the tree and the van and killed the old 
Romany. On the day of the Gypsy's funeral, the 
vicar of the parish had the flag flying half-mast high 



I 9 6 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

on the church tower, which everybody said was a 
kindly feeling to show for one who was only a 
wandering Gypsy. 

On asking my sweep about the house-dwelling 
Gypsies of Lynn, he directed me to the abode of the 
aged widow of Louis Boss (son of the famous Ryley 
Boswell or Boss), and a charming reception she gave 
me in her spotless cottage in a retired court. The 
sweep had told me of this old lady's liking for snuff, 
and a visit to a tuvalo budika (tobacco shop) enabled 
me to give her a little pleasure. By the fireside she 
refilled her shiny metal box, and, having offered me 
a trial of the pungent dust, herself took deep, loving 
pinches, with the air of a connoisseur. Indeed, the 
snuff cemented our friendship forthwith. Here I am 
reminded of a story telling how Dr. Manning (of the 
Religious Tract Society) once employed snuff in 
a very different fashion. When visiting Granada in 
Spain, he was beset by a begging crew of swarthy 
men, women, and children, and as he stood in the 
middle of the clamouring horde, he took out his 
snuff-box. Immediately all the Gypsies wanted a 
pinch. He obliged them, so long as the snuff lasted, 
taking care to keep a tight hold of his silver box. 
Soon the Gypsies were all sneezing and laughing 
immoderately, and amid the commotion the good 
doctor managed to make his escape. 

The road from King's Lynn to East Dereham 
led me through villages astir with Whitsuntide 
festivities. At one point I turned down a by-lane, 



THE SWEEP OF LYNN 197 

and, resting at the foot of a tree within view of 
Borrow's birthplace at Dumpling Green, I observed 
a party of donkey-folk trudging along with their 
animals towards Dereham. Local mumpers were 
these people, a draggle-tailed lot, and I could not 
help reflecting upon the difference between the poor 
wanderers who now pass for Gypsies and the 
Petulengros and Herons of Borrow's time. 

In the church of East Dereham, one's fancy 
pictured the boy Borrow in the corner of a pew 
fixing his eyes upon the dignified rector and parish 
clerk " from whose lips would roll many a portentous 
word descriptive of the wondrous works of the 
Most High." 

It was like living in Lavengro to wander 
about the alleys and lanes of old Norwich and 
through the ling and fern on breezy Mousehold 
above the town. Up there amid the camping sites 
and the fighting-pits, it was not without sadness 
that I read on a notice-board " No Gypsy, squatter, 
or vagrant shall frequent, or resort to, or remain 
upon the Heath." O shades of Jasper Petulengro 
and Tawno Chikno, changed indeed are the times 
since the days when ye loved and fought and 
trafficked within the precincts of beautiful old 
Norwich ! 

Concerning my trip by boat from Yarmouth to 
London, which was entirely lacking in Gypsy interest, 
nothing need be said here. 

London is in parts strongly tinctured with Gypsy 



198 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

blood. Let anyone walk along the streets which 
have been built upon the sites of the old metro- 
politan Gypsyries, and he will surely see dark faces 
and black eyes telling how the Gypsies still cling to 
these localities. All around Latimer Road Station, 
which stands upon the Potteries, Gypsies are to be 
found living in narrow courts and dingy lanes. 

On my way to Epsom on the eve of the Derby, 
I passed a few happy moments with my aged pal, 
Robert Petulengro, in whose back room at Notting 
Hill I have often been regaled with racy stories and 
touching reminiscences of old-time Romany life. 
There is something suggestive of the cleric in Bob's 
demeanour, and a stranger would never suspect that 
my placid-looking friend had led a wild, roving life. 
It is when he loses himself in a tale that his mild 
ministerial air gives place to a vivacity characteristic- 
ally Gypsy. 

To the Gypsyry on the Potteries came nomads 
named Heron and Leatherlund in the year 1854. 
(Some of their descendants still reside at the backs 
of the mews in Notting Hill.) They were the 
survivors of a sad disaster which in the previous 
year had befallen a party of hop-pickers at Hadlow in 
Kent. Through the kindness of a Gypsy woman who 
was "saved from the flood," I am able to reprint a 
portion of an old tract giving the Rev. R. Shindler's 
version of " The Medway Disaster." 

"In Kent you may still be told of a sad 



LONDON GYPSIES 199 

catastrophe which befel a party of hop-pickers, in 
the year 1853, as they were returning to their 
temporary habitations after a day's work. The 
scene of the alarming event was in the parish of 
Hadlow, near Tunbridge, Kent. It is well known 
that thousands of poor people flock down into Kent 
for the hopping. Some of these are Gypsies ; some 
may be described as house-cart people, who travel 
from place to place for the greater part of the 
year, selling their wares brushes and brooms, 
tin-ware, earthen-ware, and such-like ; but by far 
the larger part emerge from the lanes and alleys 
and courts of London. To the last especially, but 
to the others also, the hopping proves, when the 
weather is fine and the hops good, a pleasant 
recreation as well as a profitable employment. A 
number of people of Gypsy character and habits 
were employed by a farmer who resided in the 
parish of Tudely, and who had hop gardens also in 
Hadlow parish. It is a good rule among the 
hop-farmers, that when their gardens are any con- 
siderable distance from the homes of the natives 
or the encampments of the strangers, the pickers 
should be conveyed in wagons to and from the 
gardens. In this case, the river Medway had to be 
crossed in going to and from the gardens, and the 
only means of crossing was a wooden bridge of 
considerable span, and high above the current. 
The bridge was considered dangerous, especially for 
spirited horses, who were alarmed at the noise 



200 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

made by their own feet. The bridge was rendered 
even more dangerous by reason of the rather frail 
open wooden rails which flanked it right and left. 
" On the morning of the day on which the 
catastrophe occurred, several parties passed over 
the bridge in safety, and in the evening parties of 
natives, or 'home-dwellers,' had returned without 
any mishap ; but as a party of Gypsies and such- 
like were being conveyed back, the horses suddenly 
took fright, ran the wagon against the side of the 
bridge, which gave way, and wagon, horses, and 
people were precipitated into the strong current below, 
and no less than thirty were drowned. I was then 
pastor in a neighbouring parish, and had taken a 
deep interest in the religious condition of the 
hoppers, preaching in fields and stackyards and 
elsewhere near their encampments, and distributing 
tracts and New Testaments. The sad event 
mentioned above stirred my heart a great deal, 
and I felt impelled to write a short tract The 
thirty hop-pickers were buried in Hadlow church- 
yard in a common grave, the spot being marked by 
a monument recording the names of those who 
perished in the waters of the Medway." 

There are in Battersea numerous " yards " under 
railway arches, where living- vans of ''travellers" 
used to be seen all the year round. Very much 
diluted is the Gypsy blood to be found nowadays in 
these "yards." It is these degenerates, mostly 



ON EPSOM DOWNS 201 

Londoners bred and born, who at times give so 
much trouble to the local authorities in Surrey. 

Upon Hampstead Heath, and at Wormwood 
Scrubbs, a sprinkling of Gypsy faces may be seen 
among the show-folk on a Bank Holiday, and at 
Edmonton, Mitcham, and near Southend-on-Sea, 
I have met Gypsies all the year round. 

If the Yorkshireman goes to see the St. Leger 
because he has an instinctive love of horse-flesh, the 
Cockney resorts to Epsom Downs on the Derby 
Day to smell the scent of green turf and to take 
part in the most stupendous picnic in the world. 

Not merely to see a crowd of nearly a million 
human beings, but to sample Epsom's Gypsies, was 
the object of my visit to the Downs one unforget- 
table June day. London's unyielding pavements 
mean for me, after a day or two of them, an 
unpleasant foot-soreness, hence it was a relief to 
step forth upon the springy sward outside the Downs 
Station. Like children let loose from school, my 
fellow-travellers from town laughed and joked, 
whistled and sang, as briskly they moved towards 
the course. 

It was among the gorse bushes on the sunlit hill- 
top that I caught my first glimpse of the Gypsies, 
and to one acquainted with the swart Romanitskek 
of East Anglia and the Northern Counties, the 
folk of the ramshackle carts and tiny tents were 
distinctly disappointing. Ruddy, fair-haired, and 
poorly-clad, were many of them ; what a falling off 



202 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

from the horde of dark Gypsies assembled at some 
of our North-Country fairs ! 

While I was chatting with a metropolitan police- 
man, up came a tall Gypsy girl vending what purported 
to be tiny squares of cedar wood, though the specimen 
I purchased for threepence smelled a good deal more 
like the innermost layer of the red bark abounding 
in the strips of pine forest around Tunbridge Wells. 
When I inquired of the damsel as to what Gypsies 
were present on the Downs, she replied, with a low 
laugh, " You's never got to go far in these parts for 
to catch an Ayre. My dad's an Ayre, but my dai 
(mother) was a Stevens. Over there " (pointing to a 
town of Gypsy caravans and a country fair combined 
opposite the Grand Stand) " you'll find some of the 
Matthews, Penfolds, and maybe a few of the 
Bucklands." 

Crossing the course, I made my way to the part 
of the Downs indicated by Cinderella Ayre, and 
though I rubbed shoulders with a good many sunburnt 
travellers in corduroys, and show-women in gowns of 
red and green, the first real Gypsy it was my good 
fortune to meet was Davy Lee, the ancient vagabond 
who " planted " the duker'm-mokto (fortune-telling box) 
upon George Smith of Coalville. Although nearly 
blind, Davy managed to dodge in and out of the 
crowd, and, taking me up to his wagon, found time 
to chat about his father, the renowned Zacky Lee. 

" My daddy was stopping one night in a field, 
and before going to bed, he looked out and there 



ON EPSOM DOWNS 203 

was his white donkey leastways so he fancied. It 
was roaming about, and he set off to catch and tether 
it, so as he shouldn't lose it. But do whatever he 
would, he could never get up to the animal. The 
nearer he tried to come at it, the furder off it allus 
was, till at last he know'd that what he'd been 
chasing all night was not his donkey at all, but the 
Devil." 

Lounging on the grass, I noticed that the great 
event of the afternoon had arrived. Sleek, lean 
horses cantered along the course and passed out of 
sight. Amid a confused hubbub of voices, several 
moments went by. Now the glasses were levelled, 
and a profound silence settled on the crowd. All 
eyes were turned upon a little knot of horses appear- 
ing round Tattenham Corner. Then the sound of 
many voices swelled into a roar and died down again 
when the numbers went up. 

Prominent at these races in days gone by was 
Matthias Cooper, a Gypsy to whom the late King 
Edward, when Prince of Wales, would toss a golden 
sovereign. A well-known figure was Matty, attired in 
white hat, yellow waistcoat, black cut-away coat, and 
white trousers. Hovering about this old Gypsy was 
an air of the Courts and the Wilderness, for had he 
not mingled with royalty nearly all his life, this old 
"Windsor Froggie " ? It was from him that Charles 
G. Leland obtained most of the materials that went 
to make his work entitled The English Gipsies and 
their Language. Matty is now no more, but his 



204 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

sons, Anselo and Wacker, still attend the Epsom 
races year by year. 

The great carnival was at last subsiding when I 
found myself in the tent of Anselo Cooper and his 
wife, with whom I took tea. I am not likely to 
forget my ride from the course to Epsom Town. 
As the Coopers were not leaving till the end of the 
week, they begged a lift for me from some friends 
of theirs who were going to the town. Our 
" carriage," a two-wheeled affair, was drawn by a 
gaunt, long-legged horse, and along with some strange 
dark Gypsies I sat upon a pile of smoky tent-covers. 
We sped along the Down-land in a fashion which 
rocked us terribly. The very policemen laughed as 
we went by, but we reached the town in safety. 



CHAPTER XV 
TINKERS AND GRINDERS 

A PLAGUE of an incline to joints stiffened by age, 
the Steep Hill at Lincoln is for me aureoled by all 
the fair colours of youth. Have I not more than 
once rent my nether garments in gliding down the 
adjacent hand-rail ? Likewise in the time of snow 
have I not, defiant of police-notices, made slides 
where the gradient is sharpest ? 

Now it happened one day that under the shadow 
of the ancient, timbered houses just below the crown 
of the hill there stood at his workshop on wheels a 
Gypsy tinker whose wizened figure and general air of 
queerness would have charmed a Teniers, and I, a 
town boy with no small capacity for prying, hovered 
at his elbow, studying his operations. Suz-z-z-z-z went 
the tinker's wheel, as the sparks scattered in a rosy 
shower from the edge of a deftly handled blade. 
Then of a sudden something happened, causing me 
to jump as one who had been shot. There was a 
dull thud of a falling body, followed immediately by 
a shrill cry issuing from the throat of a sprawling 
pedlar 

44 Stop my leg, stop my leg ! " 



05 



206 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

A glance at the poor fellow revealed the whole 
story. His wooden leg, having become detached 
from its moorings, was rolling down the paved incline. 
Several persons were passing at the time, and more 
than one made a dash to recover the defaulting limb, 
but, youth's suppleness favouring me, I managed to 
capture the elusive treasure, and up the hill I bore it 
in triumph. With admirable agility the tinker re- 
attached the limb, and the pedlar went on his way 
rejoicing. 

" Gimme yer knife, boy," said the tinker. 

I had one resembling a saw, which he whisked 
from my hand and duly restored with a nice edge. 
He then resumed his work as though nothing worthy 
of remark had happened to stay the song of his 
wheel. 

A craft of hoary antiquity is that of the nomad 
metal-worker. An Austrian ecclesiastic, in the year 
1 200, describes the "calderari," or tinkers, of that 
time : " They have no home or country. Everywhere 
they are found alike. They travel through the world 
abusing mankind with their knavery." 

Four hundred years later, an Italian writer gives 
an account of the tinker who enchants the knives of 
the peasants by magnetizing them so as to pick up 
needles, and for this he accepts payment in the shape 
of a fowl or a pie. To this day in Eastern Europe, 
the smith, usually a Gypsy, is regarded as a semi- 
conjurer who has dealings with the Devil. 

In Scotland you will find numberless " Creenies, 



TINKERS AND GRINDERS 207 

crinks, and tinklers" who roam in primitive Gypsy 
fashion, with donkeys, ramshackle carts, tents, and a 
tinker's equipment. If you have dropped into the 
shepherd's cottage in the heathery glen, or the lone 
farmhouse on the Lowland fell, you will have noticed 
the horn spoons and ladles, or the rude smoothing- 
irons. These are the handiwork of the tinklers of a 
bygone generation. 

Two or three generations ago most of our English 
Gypsies were wandering tinkers carrying their outfits 
on their backs. 

For my own part, I have everywhere found the 
caste of tinkers a cheerful, happy-go-lucky fellowship, 
and in talks with them I have observed that they 
generally know a few Gypsy words, even when it is 
clear that they do not belong to the dark race. 

Shakespeare's Prince Hal, in Henry iv. (First 
Part, Act 2, Scene 4), is made to say, " I can drink 
with any tinker in his own language." This language, 
or jargon, known as Shelta^ has been the subject of 
much learned writing. 

My first lesson in Shelta was taken near the Shire 
Bridge, where the Great North Road, approaching 
Newark-on-Trent from the south, quits Lincolnshire 

1 " Shelta is a secret language of great antiquity ... in Irish MSS. 
we have mentions and records of it under various names . . . though 
now confined to tinkers, its knowledge was once possessed by Irish 
poets and scholars, who, probably, were its original framers " (Professor 
Kuno Meyer). 

" The language of the tinkers is a dialect or jargon exclusively of 
Celtic origin, though, like one of their own stolen asses, it is so docked 
and disguised as to be scarcely recognizable. ... A large number of 



208 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

for the county of Nottingham. A favourite halting- 
place is this for wayfaring folk of all sorts. Seated 
on Mother Earth's green carpet, a tinker and his wife 
were taking tea, and at their invitation I sat beside 
them for a chat. Presently I showed two bright new 
pennies to the tinker, saying 

" If you'll tell me what these are in Shelta, they're 
yours." 

In a moment he replied, " Od nyok" (two heads), 
and I handed over the coins. With a comic gesture 
he queried 

"Yer wouldn't like to larn a bit more o' thet 
langwidge, would yer ? " 

''Rat-tat-tat" went the old brass knocker one 
morning at the side-door of my house, and on being 
informed that a tinker was inquiring for me, I 
hastened to see what manner of man he was. Before 
me stood a battered specimen of the Romany of the 
roads, and with a view to testing his depth, I asked 

" Do you ever dik any Romanitsheh on the drom ? " 
(see any Gypsies on the road). 

"You J ave me there, mister," said he. "Upon 
my soul, I dunno what you're talkin' about." 

Shelta words are formed by transposing the principal letters of the 
Gaelic word. This species of back-slang is, of course, purely phonetic, 
differing in this respect from the more artificial letter-reversing back- 
slang of costers and cabmen. . . . It is indeed strange that the existence 
of a tongue so ancient and widespread as Shelta should have remained 
entirely unsuspected until Mr. Leland, with whom the undivided honour 
of this discovery rests, first made it public in the pages of Macmillaris 
Magazine " (Dr. John Sampson). 




A TINKER OF OLDEN TIMES. 

By permission of Mrs. Johnson.} 




A WELSH GYPSY TINKER. 

Photo, Fred Shaw.} [To face p. 2c 



TINKERS AND GRINDERS 209 

The man's face was a study in innocence. 

"You know right enough what I'm saying," I 
continued in Romany. 

My man could endure it no longer, and, exploding 
with mirth, he turned and shouted to his brother, who 
stood near a grinding-barrow on the road. 

" Av akai, Bill, 'ere's a rashai roker'm Romanes 
as fast as we can " (Come here, Bill, here's a parson 
talking Gypsy). " Bring that shushi (rabbit) out o' 
the guno " (sack). 

With unaffected goodwill, the two Gypsies insisted 
on my accepting the rabbit as a token of friendship. 
This I did gladly, asking no questions as to how they 
had come by a newly-killed rabbit. After grinding 
my garden axe, they both set off whistling down the 
road. 

One day a Gypsy tinker, whom I had met a few 
times, took me aside, saying 

"My sister lives in the next street" (he told me 
the number). "She has a pony, a poor, scraggy 
thing, which she wants to get rid of badly. Go you 
and say to her 

" ' I hear you have a nice little cob to sell.' And 
when she brings it round for you to look at, say 

" ' Bless my soul, do you think I'd buy a hoppy 
grai like dova ? ' " (a lame horse like that). 

Presently, at that sister's threshold, I waited for 
the pony to be brought round, which on arriving 
proved to be a miserable-looking animal indeed. The 
14 



210 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

woman looked first at me, then at the pony, which 
limped badly, while its bones showed through its skin. 

Said I, " Well, really, I didn't expect to see quite 
such a wafodu kova " (wretched thing). 

Readily entering into the joke, she laughed 
heartily. She had taken me for a dinelo gawjo 
(gentile simpleton), and to her astonishment I had 
turned out to be a Gypsy of a higher sort. 

At one time I used to have frequent visits from a 
travelling tinker, and when his grinding-barrow was 
standing in my yard, I would chat with him while he 
was doing some little job. He was an interesting 
fellow who had seen something of the world. He 
had a remarkable knowledge of the medicinal pro- 
perties of wild herbs, and would spend hours by the 
chalk stream in our valley, grubbing up liverwort of 
which he would make decoctions. One morning he 
was in the tale-telling mood. 

" It was this very barrer what you're looking at 
now. You notice there's lots of bits of brass nailed 
on it for to catch the sunshine. I likes my barrer to 
look cheerful. Well, there was a fellow came to me 
with summut wrapped up in brown paper, a flat 
thing it was, and he says, * I want you to buy this 
here off me.' Says I, ' Let's have a look at it,' and 
when he opened it out, it was a fine bit of copper- 
plate with summut engraved on it. I asked him 
what the engraving was about, for you know I can't 
read. He says, ' It's an architex business plate, that's 



TINKERS AND GRINDERS 211 

all, and you can have it for a shilling.' So I bought 
it and nailed it on to my barrer among the other bits 
of brass and things. Well, happens that a parson 
was a-talking to me one day, and I noticed his eye 
lighted on this here copper-plate. Says he, looking 
wery serious, ' I'm afraid this will get you into trouble, 
if a policeman sees it.' 'How's that?' I asked. 
' What's wrong with the copper-plate ?' * Well,' says 
he, 'it's a plate for printing ^5 notes. Where did 
you get it from ? ' And I told him. You may be 
sure I soon had that plate off my barrer, and, turning 
to the parson, I says, ' Perhaps you'll buy it off me, 
for a sort of nicknack ? ' And he gave me half-a- 
crown for it." 

Looking slyly at me, the tinker remarked 
" When that parson got home, being a man of 
eddication, he would know where to get the right 
sort of paper, and then he would make $ notes 
cheap, you bet." 

For several Christmas Eves past, this tinker's boy 
and a little pal have walked some miles from a 
neighbouring town to sing carols at my Rectory 
door. They possess good voices and sing very 
tunefully some of the old carols, " God rest you, 
merry gentlemen," and the like. 

One summer afternoon, in the market-place at 
Hull, I met two grinders coming out of a tavern, 
near which stood a tinker's barrow belonging to one 
of them, Golias Gray, a Gypsy, whom I had seen 



212 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

before at fair-times in the seaport town. " Black as 
the ace of spades " is Golias, and he was, as usual, 
sporting a yellow shirt. His pale-faced companion, 
a stranger to me, after a little talk, waxed com- 
municative, and, whilst his Gypsy pal resumed his 
grinding of knives, he gave me a short list of words 
in Shelta (Tinker's Talk). 

SHELTA. ENGLISH. 

Binni Little. 

Bog To get. 

Buer .... . Woman, wife. 

Cam ..... Son. 

Gap To kiss. 

Gosh To sit. 

Granni ..... To know. 

Hin One. 

Ken House. 

Minkler .... Tinker. 

Mizzle To go. 

Monkeri . . . . Country. 

Mush Umbrella. 

Nyok Head. 

Od Two. 

Sonni ..... To see. 

Stammer .... To spit. 

Stimmer .... Pipe. 

Sweebli .... Boy. 

Thari To speak. 

Tober . Road. 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE INN ON THE RIDGEWAY TALES BY 
THE FIRESIDE 

AT one time I had a great liking for long jaunts in 
search of fossils cross-country rambles extending 
over two or three days. Thus I came to know many 
a deserted quarry and unfrequented byway of our 
county, as well as the bedchambers of sundry remote 
wayside inns " hedge-taverns," perhaps some would 
have described these lonely little houses of call. 
Occasionally, however, I lighted upon an inn which 
had seen better days, a sleepy old house with 
mullioned casements, a worn mounting-block of stone, 
and a rude iron ring still fixed in the wall near the 
deep porch before which an unfenced stretch of 
sward dipped towards the roadway. 

Let me recall one of my geologizing expeditions 
on an early March day. I had been successful in 
my quest, and my knapsack, laden with stony spoils, 
was not very light. But what matter ? It was fine 
to be striding along a ridgeway with a roaring 
gale behind, and every wayside tree whistling like 
a ship's rigging in a storm. Going along that road, 



813 



214 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

I stretched out my limbs, and in so doing the very 
thews and sinews of the mind became more elastic. 
Straight from the reddening west blew the wild 
whirling wind, which, like some old giant, frolicsome 
yet kind, spread out its open palms upon my back, 
fairly shoving me along. This was living this fine 
exaltation, this surging up of joyous emotions ; and 
from a gnarled ash tree a storm-thrush with throbbing 
speckled throat told the same tale of a heart set free 
from every care. Such was my mood when at a 
turn of the road a red-shawled figure, surely a Gypsy, 
appeared for a moment and as suddenly was lost to 
sight down a gloomy yew-fringed drive leading to 
the rear of a low grey mansion. She'll be out again 
presently, thought I ; so I resolved to await the 
woman's reappearance. 

Meanwhile, like a spreading forest fire, the sunset 
flung its flaming crimson far over the land. Tree 
boughs and boles caught the glow, and underfoot 
the very grasses burnt by winter frosts seemed dyed 
with blood. Across a riot of sundown colours, black 
rooks were heading for their resting-place in the 
upland woods rugged against a castle-phantasy of 
lurid cloud piled up in the east. 

Loitering there, methought of the wandering 
Gypsies who in other days had passed along this 
desolate road. I seemed again to behold a gang 
of slouching Herons, swarthy, black-eyed, secretive, 
accompanied by their pack-ponies and donkeys carry- 
ing tent- rods, pots, and pans. Who shall say what 



THE INN ON THE RIDGEWAY 215 

processions of old Romany souls, long departed, here 
visit the glimpses of the moon ? 

The moments flew by, but no Gypsy came. A 
little longer I waited, pacing sharply up and down 
the roadway, then as the red shawl had not put 
in an appearance, visions of a cosy meal by the 
fire of a certain inn began to beckon alluringly, 
so I started on my way again. Soon I forgot all 
about the Gypsy, who by this time had probably 
done a good stroke in the dukerm line among the 
servants of the mansion. However, a rutted, grassy 
lane turning off to the left drew one's eye towards 
a gorsy corner where the chimney of a Gypsy van 
flung a drooping trail of smoke over the tangles, 
and, going forward, I shouted in the doorway, " Any- 
body at home ? " 

A man's scared face looked out. Perhaps he 
had expected a command to quit his corner and draw 
out into the windy night. A moment later in a tone 
of relief, he said 

"Now I know who you are. You'll be the rashai 
I met wi' Jonathan Boswell by the watermill. Don't 
you remember I moved away when you began to 
roker (talk) ? My pal Boswell wanted to have 
you to himself. That's why I took my hook. But 
come inside a bit. This wind's enough to blow your 
wery bal avrl" (hair off). 

How strange it is that if a Gypsy has seen you 
anywhere for a few moments, he is able to identify 
your very shadow for ever after. 



216 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Gladly I joined Old Frank in his cheery vado, 
which certainly suggested comfort and gaiety to this 
traveller on the wild March evening. 

"You gave me a bit of a shock," said Frank. 
"At first I took you for a muskro (constable), but 
as soon as the light of my lamp fell on your face 
I reckernized you in a minute." 

We talked awhile of Old Jonathan, whose faithful 
consort Fazzy had passed away up in Yorkshire. 
This brought to mind the red-shawled woman whom 
I had seen down the road. 

"That'll be my monushni (wife). I expect her 
home di-rectly. When she comes, you pretend to 
be a muskro" this with a broad grin. "Say 
roughish-like, ' Wasn't your name Liddy West afore 
you was married ? ' Then draw out a bit of paper, 
a letter folded long or anythink like that'll do, and 
say, * I've come to take you for fortune-telling." 

No one understands the whole art and mystery 
of practical joking better than the Gypsy, and he 
dearly loves to play pranks even upon his fellows. 
It is part and parcel of the Gypsy's innate spirit 
of mischief, examples of which I have seen not a 
few in my time. 

Having acquiesced in the joke, our talk presently 
ran on muskros. 

" Muskros st juke p /s" (policemen are dogs), said 
the Gypsy. 

" There was a pal of mine who was up to card 



THE INN ON THE RIDGEWAY 217 

games [sharping?], and at Doncaster Races he 
happened to drop a word or two in Romanes (Gypsy 
tongue) to a mate. A muskro was standing near, and 
bless me if he didn't jin the tshib (know the language), 
and of course my pal and his mate was leF& opr 
(taken up). Tend upon it, muskros \sjukels" 

A good step farther along the road stood the 
tavern, the " Black Boy," whose swinging sign of 
an Ethiopian countenance I was eager to see, since 
I was to spend the night there in order to resume 
my fossil-hunting on the morrow. 

11 Come and see me a little later at the kitshima 
(inn) down the road, and mind you bring the missis 
and your fiddle." As I rose to go, I noticed Frank 
gave a sidelong glance at my bulging knapsack, 
and in order to satisfy his curiosity, I took out a 
fossil, a fine grypkea incurva, on seeing which he 
drew back, holding up his hands in real or mock 
horror, I could scarcely say which. 

" Ddbla, that be one of the Devil's toe-nails, 
wery onlucky stuff to carry about you ! Wherever 
did you get it from ? " 

"Off the Bengs piro (Devil's foot), to be sure," 
I said, with a laugh, and renewed my invitation 
pressingly. He promised to come. 

What a relief to stretch your limbs before a 
glowing fire inside an old-fashioned inn, when 
boisterous winds are shaking the window-panes and 
driving the loose straw from the cobbled yard into 
the hedge bottoms. No stranger at this house on 



218 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

the ridgeway, I know every nook of the room. 
There is the old gun still reared up in yonder 
corner. From nails in the cross-beams hang flitches 
of bacon and bulky hams. Plates and dishes ar- 
ranged on racks glitter in the firelight. The pewter 
mugs on the dresser and the bright copper warming- 
pan hanging on the wall reflect the glow of the ruddy 
flames darting up the wide chimney. Here and there 
hang modern oleographs whose crude tints have been 
softened by smoke. 

Tea is set on a table over which a lamp hanging 
from a hook in the ceiling casts a pleasant radiance. 
During my meal the landlord, ruddy of countenance, 
looks in and greets me in a friendly way. From his 
talk with his wife, a slight, frail-looking woman of 
seventy who sits darning by the fire, I gather that 
a horse is very ill in the stable, and any moment 
the veterinary surgeon is expected. Presently, the 
barking of a dog in the front of the inn announces 
his arrival in a gig, and the landlord hurries out 
with a storm -Ian tern in his hand. In a few minutes, 
the two men enter, and before the fire the burly 
vet rubs his hands, talks in clear, sharp tones, then, 
tossing off a ''scotch" smoking hot, he wishes us 
good-night. Whereupon the innkeeper goes off to 
the stable. 

Tea over, a small maid with chestnut hair and 
spotless pinafore clears the table, and I move to 
the high-backed settle opposite the landlady. In 
the fire-grate a huge chunk of wood burns brightly, 



TALES BY THE FIRESIDE 219 

and every now and then a puff of wood-smoke 
comes out into the room. 

Addressing the old lady, I inform her that I 
am expecting some visitors to see me to-night, and 
they are stopping in a little lane down the road. 

4 'Why, we had those Gypsies up here this 
morning. Their faces are well known round here, 
though we don't have them so much as we used 
to do. You take an interest in Gypsies, don't you, 
sir? At least I've heard it said that you do. They 
don't often set foot inside your church, I should 
think?" 

" Sometimes they do, and their reverent be- 
haviour would certainly put to shame some of the 
more regular attenders. If their unfamiliarity with 
print leads them to hold a borrowed book upside 
down, they do at anyrate kneel upon their knees 
instead of squatting upon the benches, and I have 
never once known them to go to sleep during sermon- 
time." 

Speaking about Gypsies and churches, I am 
reminded of a funny experience I once had all 
through a Gypsy cabman's mistake. 

I had promised to take an afternoon service 
at a village church miles away in the country, 
and the road to it was unfamiliar to me. On my 
naming the place, the driver said that he knew 
every inch of the road, and, trusting myself in his 
hands, we bowled along for several miles, and at 



220 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

last struck off into a tangle of green lanes. A 
few minutes before the hour of service three o'clock 
my driver put me down at an old grey stone 
church, saying, " Here we are, sir." Entering the 
church, I found a congregation assembled, and, going 
into the belfry, I asked for the vestry wherein to 
robe. 

" We ain't got one here. Our pass'n dresses hisself 
in his house and comes in at that little door." The 
sexton then conducted me to a chantry-chapel full 
of dusty figures of knights and their ladies lying 
side by side with their feet resting upon their 
hounds. There I robed and awaited the ceasing 
of the bells. When they stopped, I stepped towards 
the prayer desk, when, to my astonishment, there 
appeared through the small door in the chancel 
a fully-robed parson, white - headed and bowed 
with age. We met and exchanged astonished 
glances. 

Said I, " I'm afraid there is some mistake." 

He shook his head. " I'm deaf, and can't hear 
a word you say." He then went to his desk, and 
knelt before commencing evensong. 

It was an uncomfortable five minutes for me. I 
could hear the congregation tittering and the mixed 
choir giggling. In despair I went to the lady organist, 
and asked for the name of the church. Her reply 
made it clear that I had come to the wrong village, 
and, rushing out by the chancel door, I sought my 
cabby, whom I rated soundly for his blunder. For- 



TALES BY THE FIRESIDE 221 

tunately my destination was no more than a mile 
and a half farther on. 

In a little while, the tavern door opened noisily, 
admitting a rush of wind. There was a sound of 
naily boots on the threshold, and Gypsy Frank and 
his wife entered. In a few moments they were 
happy enough on the black settle with mugs of good 
Newark brew in front of them. 

Just before the Gypsies had arrived, I had been 
studying a pocket-map of the locality, and once 
again I had an old impression confirmed that many 
out-of-the-way country districts are dotted over with 
place-names bearing witness to the prevalence of 
Gypsy encampments in the past. I mean such names 
as "Gypsy Lane," " Gypsy Nook," " Gypsy Dale," 
and the like. On the map I had noted a " Gypsy 
Corner," " Gypsy Bridge," and " Gypsy Ford." 

It was about " Gypsy Ford " that I put a question 
to Old Frank sitting by my side, and he described 
the shallow crossing at a bend in the river over which 
before now I had passed by a narrow plank-bridge. 
According to my Gypsy, one night many years ago a 
quarrel arose in the Romany tents encamped near the 
ford, and in the course of a fight between two kinsmen, 
one of them was slain. Speedily a grave was dug, and, 
the corpse having been covered up, the Gypsies fled the 
spot. This affair became widely known, and little 
wonder that a legend arose about a " something" 
having been seen in the neighbourhood of the ford. 



222 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

" You's mebbe heard," said Frank, "about Gypsy 
Jack's wife, 'Flash' Rosabel, who was drownded at 
the ford on just such a wild night as this." 

" ' Let's camp in the lane on this side of the water,' 
says Jack's wife. 

"'Keka' (No), says he, 'not in this drom (road) 
where the mulo (ghost) walks. With a bright moon 
like this, our grai (horse) will see to pull us through 
the river all right, never fear.' 

" Anyway, he whipped up the horse and steered 
straight into the ford. And then a sad thing 
happened. There had been a deal o' rain and the 
stream was bigger and stronger than Jack had any 
idea of. Somewheres about the middle of the river, 
the hoss was swept off its feet, the wagon tumbled 
over on to its side, and poor old ' Flash ' Rosabel was 
carried away and drownded. Jack allus said that the 
grai must have di&& the mulo " (the horse must have 
seen the ghost). "That's a tale what's been told by 
many a traveller's fire." 

Just then the publican came in, panting after a 
tussle with the wind, and, being on good terms with 
my Gypsy friends, he said, "I'm glad to see you've 
brought your music. Gi' us a tune, Frank." Then 
the Gypsy, taking his fiddle from its baize bag, 
screwed up the strings, and, having tuned them to 
his liking, gave us a merry air from memory's 
repertoire. At the back of the clear cantabile of the 
air, you heard the deep roar of the storm. Once I 




A ROMANY FIDDLER 



Photo, Fred Shaw.} 



[To face p. 222. 



TALES BY THE FIRESIDE 223 

went to the window and looked out into the night. 
Athwart the white moonlit road lay the sharp black 
shadows of the ash trees rising from the far hedgerow, 
and, as I watched the swaying, writhing boughs, a 
lonely horseman sped past, a phantom he seemed 
more than a living being, and, returning to my nook 
in the ingle, I heard in fancy all through the Gypsy's 
music the haunting clatter of the night-rider's horse, 
and wondered what mysterious mission had called 
him forth on this riotous March evening. Now the 
fiddler ceased, and his pewter was forthwith re- 
plenished. " Good ale, this," says Frank, wiping 
his mouth with the back of his hand. "Why, yes," 
put in the landlady, looking over her spectacles, and 
glad, if the truth be known, to give her darning 
a rest ; " it's Newark ale, and no better drink could 
any man wish for ; we've sold nothing else for 
years." 

Said the landlord, who by this time had recovered 
his breath 

" That was a strange case as I see'd in the 
paper t'other day about the wise woman getting 
' trapped ' by the constable's wife as went to have 
her fortune told. The paper said as how a crystal 
ball were used, but I'm blest if I knows how anybody 
can expect to see their future in a thing o' that 
sort." 

" Dunno so much about that," remarked Old Liddy, 
who had been dreaming over the fire. " A woman 
as had a crystal once told my dad he would go to 



224 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

prison in a fortnight, and sure enough he did, along 
wi' a conjurer who'd been up to his tricks, and dad 
says to him when they was in jail, ' A mighty poor 
conjurer you be, my fine fellow, if you can't conjure 
us out of this place.' I believes there is summut in 
crystals." 

And then I was tempted to tell how a clairvoyant's 
crystal once did me a good turn. Let me explain 
that many years ago, when I was a curate on the 
Wolds, our Rector's aged wife used to bring me rare 
wild-flowers to be named, and thus I won a place in 
the lady's good books. 

Time passed, and the Rector's wife died. Not 
long after, I moved away to another sphere of work. 
Then came the news of the decease of the old Rector 
himself. One morning, twenty years after quitting 
that Wold parish, a letter reached me, asking if I had 

been a curate with Canon A in such and such 

years, and further inquiring whether my wife 
Elizabeth was still alive. Of course I had no 
difficulty in satisfying the writer of the letter, and his 
speedy reply brought an agreeable enclosure in the 
form of a cheque, a little legacy bequeathed to us by 
a codicil to the will of the old Rector's wife who loved 
wild-flowers. But the strangest part of the story is 
yet to come. During a visit to London, the wife of 
the present parson of our old parish visited a 
clairvoyant who by the aid of a crystal declared that 
in the drawing-room of her home stood a small brass- 



TALES BY THE FIRESIDE 225 

handled writing-table containing several drawers, in 
one of which would be found on examination a bundle 
of papers long neglected. On returning home, the 
writing-table was duly searched, with the result that 
the forgotten codicil was disclosed, and in it were 
mentioned some legacies bequeathed to friends, 
several of whom had since passed away, but my wife 
and I happened to be among the survivors. Thus 
there came to us, as I have said, an agreeable 
arrival by the morning post, so that if " seeing is 
believing," my wife and I ought nevermore to scoff 
at clairvoyants and their crystals. 

"Dawdi!" (expression of surprise) exclaimed 
Liddy, with something of a gasp in her voice, while 
Old Frank looked wonder struck. 

"Well, that licks all I've ever heard," said the 
publican, slapping his knee in punctuation of 
his surprise. " Now let's have another tune, 
Frank." 

Whereupon the fiddler broke into a Scottish air with 
variations, his body swaying to and fro the while. 
During several staves, the player laid his cheek on 
the violin in a fashion so comical that at the end of 
the tune I could not refrain from remarking 

"You reminded me just now, my pal, of Wry- 
necked Charley the boshomengro " (fiddler). With a 
good-natured grin he replied 

" So you know that tale about the fiddler ? " 

And here it is, in my own words. 
'5 



226 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Charley Lovell, a fiddler of renown, was returning 
one evening after a tiring day's fiddling at a village 
feast. On the way to his tent, which was pitched in 
a disused quarry, the Gypsy took from his pocket a 
few coins he had received by way of payment. 
" Poor luck, I call it, to be paid like this for such 
hard work." Thus commiserating himself, he trudged 
along the sunken lane leading to his tent. Imagine 
his surprise to find at the tent door a tall gentleman 
dressed in black broad-cloth. Dark of complexion, 
black-eyed, and polished in demeanour, the stranger 
turned to meet the Gypsy. 

" Good evening, sir," said Charley, bowing low, 
for he had the sense to perceive that a gentleman 
stood before him. " Pray what can I do for you ? " 

"A great kindness," responded the stranger, "for 
I have heard of your skilful playing upon this wonder- 
ful instrument" (tapping Charley's fiddle with his 
finger), " and I wish to know if you will come to play 
at a dance of mine to-morrow night." The place and 
hour were named, and the Gypsy promised to be there. 

" Open your hands, my man ; " and into them the 
stranger emptied a pocketful of silver coins, and 
departed, smiling over his shoulder at the perplexed 
Gypsy. All that night Charley tossed restlessly on 
his bed of straw. "A fore-handed payment, and 
generous too. Who can that dark gentleman be ? " 
In the morning the Gypsy betook himself to a neigh- 
bouring priest, who, on hearing his story, looked 
grave. 



TALES BY THE FIRESIDE 227 

" You have made a bargain with the Devil." 

" Then tell me how I can get out of it." 

" You must keep your engagement, for, if you 
don't, the Devil will fetch you." 

" But what am I to do when I get there ? " 

"If you do as I say, all will be well. When you 
are asked to strike up, you must be sure to play 
nothing but slow, solemn psalm tunes. Mind you do 
as I say." 

At the appointed hour the trembling fiddler stood 
on the moonlit sward within the walls of a ruined 
castle. Awaiting his arrival was the tall dark gentle- 
man surrounded by his guests, an array of lords and 
ladies in silks and satins. When the signal was given 
for the fiddler to commence his music, Charley drew 
his bow over the strings, evoking none but psalm 
tunes, solemn and slow, as the priest had advised. 
After a few moments of this sort of music, the Devil 
marched up to the Gypsy, and, fixing his large black 
eyes upon him, said 

"Give us something more lively at once." 

" I cannot," said the Gypsy. 

"Then, take that\" and the Devil struck 
Charley a smart blow on the cheek, twisting the poor 
fellow's head on one side, and so it ever remained. 
After that, he was always known as " Wry-necked " 
Charley. 

As the clock was striking the hour of ten, the 
rural tavern's closing-time, my Gypsy friends stepped 
out into the night. 



228 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

All through the long hours the wind howled in the 
chimney and rattled the casements, and one traveller 
at least slept but fitfully in his four-poster draped 
with curtains of red damask. 

In the morning the landlord informed me at break- 
fast that a tree had been blown down across the road, 
and, while "rembling" under his overturned straw- 
stack, a fine fox was found smothered, and, " See 
here," he said, " I shall always think of last night 
whenever I look at this," holding up a beautiful tawny 
brush. 

The storm-rack was still scudding overhead as I 
bade adieu to the quaint pair on the footworn door- 
step of the " Black Boy " on the ridge way. 



CHAPTER XVII 
HORNCASTLE FAIR 

LIKE Lincoln, York, and Chester, the town of Horn- 
castle originated within the boundaries of a Roman 
castrum, and to this day an old-world atmosphere 
clings to its narrow, cobbled streets. 

Readers who know their Borrow will recall the 
visit of "The Romany Rye" to Horncastle in the 
August of 1825, in order to sell a horse which he 
had purchased by means of a loan from his Gypsy 
friend Jasper. 

Nowhere perhaps are the changes wrought by the 
passing years more plainly seen than at a horse-fair 
of ancient standing. Horncastle has inhabitants who 
remember when the great August Horse-Fair occupied 
fully a fortnight or three weeks, and was widely re- 
cognized as an event of the first rank. Within my 
own observation, this fair, like others of its kind, has 
declined with swift strides. In my time, buyers would 
be present from all parts of the country, as well as 
from the Continent, and members of our best Gypsy 
families invariably made a point of attending. In all 
these respects, however, the once famous fair has 
dwindled in a very marked manner. 



230 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Let me describe a twentieth-century visit to the 
August horse-mart. 

Having approached the town along a bold ridge- 
way commanding a countryside yellowing to harvest, 
I arrive to find the place astir with dealers and horses. 
Though now but a one-day affair, the mart is not with- 
out its pleasing aspects to a lover of such scenes. 
The chief centre of business is known as the Bull 
Ring, where well-clad dealers from our English towns, 
horsey-looking men slapping their thighs with malacca 
canes, rub shoulders with rubicund farmers from 
Wold and Marsh, grooms and Gypsies. Not for the 
purpose of buying or selling horses have I come 
hither, but for no other reason than to meet the Gypsy 
families who usually turn up at the fair. 

Behind the Parish Church of St. Mary, in a 
pasture pleasantly open to the sun, numerous caravans 
are drawn up under the hedges. It is here that the 
better sort of Gypsies congregate. Down Hemingby 
Lane lies an encampment of poorer travellers, and 
some of the same sort of people have drawn into the 
yard of the " New Inn." In the course of the day 
I shall visit these three companies of Gypsies. 

Meanwhile, passing over the Bain Bridge, I 
step inside the old Parish Church and, taking 
out from my pocket a well-thumbed copy of The 
Romany Rye, I turn to the passage where Borrow 
talks with the sexton about the rusty scythes 
hanging on the wall. Just then a lady, evi- 
dently an American tourist, who has been looking 



HORNCASTLE FAIR 231 

up Tennyson's footprints, which abound hereabouts, 
asks : 

" Can you tell me anything about those strange- 
looking things on the wall ? " 

Various theories have been advanced to account 
for the presence of these old scythe-blades within 
the sacred building, the popular opinion being that 
they were used as instruments of war at Winceby 
Fight on nth October 1643. So much, indeed, 
Borrow seems to have gathered from the sexton, 
but the better-informed authorities of to-day think 
that they are relics of the rising known as the 
Pilgrimage of Grace in the year 1536. 

Quitting the fine old church, I passed out into 
the fair, and straightway met a Gypsy fingering a 
telegram. " Will you read it for me, please ? " The 
message was from a popular Baroness who was 
desirous of borrowing a caravan for a bazaar; and 
as I pencilled a reply on the back of the telegram, 
the Gypsy declared that he would sleep in a tent till 
his " house on wheels" returned to him. 

I have always known that Gypsies readily help 
one another when in trouble. This man, before 
going off with his telegram, told me a pleasing thing. 
It appears that an aged Gypsy, whose horse had 
died suddenly, had no money to buy another with, 
but a pal of his, going round with a cap among the 
Gypsy dealers at the fair, had quickly taken ten 
pounds, which were handed up to the old man who 
was now able to buy himself an animal. 



232 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

In The Romany Rye, Borrow speaks of the 
inn where he put up as having a yard which opened 
into the principal street of the town. On entering 
that yard he was greeted by the ostlers with " It 
is no use coming here all full no room whatever ; " 
whilst one added in an undertone, " That 'ere a'n't 
a bad-looking horse." In a large upstairs room 
overlooking a court, the newcomer dined with 
several people connected with the fair. 

During former visits to Horncastle I had tried 
to identify Borrow's inn, but without result. 
Happily, on the present occasion, I came upon a 
local antiquary from whom I gathered that Borrow's 
inn was undoubtedly the " George," now converted 
into a post office. Strolling down the quondam inn- 
yard, my friend pointed out the bow-window through 
which the jockey so neatly pitched his bottle of pink 
champagne. Also, he told a good tale of the fair 
in its palmy days 

Public-houses, though very numerous in the 
town, were yet unable to supply the fair folk with 
all the drink they required, and any householder 
could take out what was called a Bough Licence on 
payment of seven shillings and sixpence. Having 
decided to take out such a licence, a man and his 
wife obtained a barrel of beer and displayed the 
customary green bough over their door. On the eve 
of the fair the husband said to his wife 

" I'll see if this beer is good." 




THE "GEORGE" INN YARD AT HORNCASTLE. 

Photo, Car lion.} 




HORNCASTLE FAIR 233 

"You won't without paying for it." 
"Very well, my dear, I'll have three-pen'orth," 
handing over the coins to his wife. 

He appeared to enjoy it so much that she said 
" Let me have three-pen'orth," handing the pence 
to her husband. Then he had another drink, pass- 
ing the threepence back again. And the same 
coppers passed to and fro until the barrel was 
empty. 

It was to Horncastle Fair, years ago, that 
Jem Mace came with his master, Nat Langham, to 
whom he had been introduced at Lincoln Fair, 
where Nat had a sparring troupe which he had 
brought down from the metropolis. At Horncastle, 
Jem had a tremendous glove-fight with the local 
champion, who was the terror of the district. This 
fellow was bigger and older than Mace, who was 
then only in his eighteenth year, and for a long 
time the issue was doubtful, but at last the Horn- 
castle champion was licked to a standstill, and had 
to give in. 

Walking down a crooked by-lane, past a shop 
where a chatty little tailor sat repairing a scarlet 
hunting-coat (the South Wolds Kennels lie a few 
miles outside the town), I found a camp of Gypsies 
in a field, and near one of the fires on the grass 
sat Liddy Brown, a crone of seventy years, puffing 
a black pipe, her curls peeping from beneath a gay 
diklo (kerchief). In the course of our talk, she spoke 



234 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

of our hilly country, and recalled the days when 
her folk had pack-donkeys and camped in the 
green lanes on the Wolds. A grand-daughter of 
Fowk Heron, she had some diverting reminiscences 
of her mother Mizereti, and her aunts Cinderella 
and Tiena. The last-named was bitten by a mad 
dog, and thereby came to an untimely end. 

Returning to the town, I looked into the " New 
Inn" yard and found a number of Gypsies stopping 
there. The women and girls had donned their 
smartest fair-going raiment. As I viewed these 
wanderers, it was not easy to realize that they were 
the lingering remnants of the once powerful tribes 
of Browns and Winters hailing from the Border 
country in the days of Sheriff Walter Scott. 

Passing through the archway of the inn, I 
mingle again with the crowd, but no thimblengro, 
no Irish Murtagh, no Jack Dale meet the eye, though, 
curiously enough, from the racing stables at 
Baumber, where the Derby winner of 1875 Prince 
Batthyany's Galopin was born, there are two or 
three jockeys looking more than usually diminutive 
among the burly dealers in the street. 

Towards the end of the afternoon the fair began 
to slacken. The few remaining groups of horses 
seemed to have gone to sleep in the sultry Bull 
Ring. Already farmers were moving off in their 
light traps, and dealers were making for the railway 
station. Going along the riverside path I saw a 
Gypsy man asleep at the foot of a tree, and, climbing 



HORNCASTLE FAIR 235 

a fence, I found myself in the encampment behind 
the church. The scene was enlivening. Seated 
around their fires most of the Gypsies were making 
ready for the evening meal. Near a little tent the 
aged Mrs. Petulengro, a veritable " Mother in 
Egypt," was lighting her pipe. Her grand-daughter 
coming out of the tent offers her a stool to sit upon, 
but the old lady scorns the idea. " I should tumble 
off a thing like that I'm better down here," 
pointing to a sack spread by the fire beside which 
two kettles are hissing. 

In various parts of the field the Petulengros are 
gathered together. Here are tall Alfy and Hook- 
nosed Suki, "Rabbitskin" Bob, and " Ratcatcher " 
Charley. During supper, I had to listen to a 
disquisition on lying from Suki. Put into a nutshell, 
her ideas amount to this : Lying is of two kinds. 
There is lying for a living, else how could any sort 
of business be carried on. But business deceptions 
are not to be mentioned in the same breath with 
nasty lies which are meant to " hurt a body." 

" Do you remember, rashai, that time we met you 
by Newark, when Elijah was with us ? A jolly old 
fellow he were. He often got into staruben (prison) 
for fighting but never for stealing. He would go 
through an orchard, like that one there " (pointing to 
some apple-trees close by), " but do you think he'd ever 
pick up an apple ? Not he, he'd never steal nothink, 
wouldn't Elijah. He could stand hard knocks, and 
would only fight a better man than hisself. He was 



2 3 <5 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

that tough, nothing ever hurt him. He would lay 
asleep under a wagon with never a shirt on him and 
take no harm." 

Elijah was one of three brothers tall, powerful 
fellows. Sometimes the trio, Elijah, Master, and 
Swallow, would enter a lonely tavern, and having 
ordered ale would depart without paying for it. 
When the publican protested, the Gypsies displayed 
their brawny arms and huge fists before his face. 
One day they had performed this favourite trick 
several times, and were paying an evening call at 
a village inn, where they sat a long time. Waxing 
quarrelsome, the brothers first brawled among them- 
selves, and afterwards got at cross-purposes with a 
farmer in the tap-room. In the course of a tussle 
with this person, Swallow fell upon him as he lay 
on the floor, and, as they struggled there, a steel 
rush-threading needle of large size, used in mending 
chair bottoms, dropped from the Gypsy's pocket. 
Seizing this, Elijah pricked the farmer in the ribs, 
and then flung the needle at the feet of Swallow, 
who picked it up. The farmer's cries attracted the 
attention of a village constable who was going 
by. 

" Eh, what's the matter here ? " said the constable, 
stepping into the tap-room. 

" These Gypsies are trying to murder me," said 
the farmer. ''One of 'em's stuck me with a long 
knife as he's got about him." 

The pockets of the Gypsies were searched, and 



HORNCASTLE FAIR 237 

the steel needle was found upon Swallow. As the 
constable held it up between his fingers, the farmer 
cried 

" That's it. That's what he tried to kill me 
with." 

The three brothers were arrested and underwent 
their trial, with the result that Elijah and Master 
were sent to prison for a year, but poor Swallow, 
although innocent of the charge made against him, 
was transported for fourteen years. 

By that Gypsy fire the evening meal passed 
pleasantly enough, and when at a later hour I re- 
turned to the town, the darkened houses were framing 
the cobbled street, and through the open window of 
a tavern I caught a soft Romany phrase along with 
the clinking of glasses. And then from under the 
archway of the inn yard a dwarfish Gypsy, mounted 
on a lean horse, rode off with a great clatter into 
the dusk. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

A GYPSY SEPULCHRE BURIAL LORE THE 
PASSING OF JONATHAN 

IN Tetford churchyard, not far from my Rectory on 
the Lincolnshire Wolds, lies the grave of two cele- 
brated Gypsies, Tyso Boswell and Edward, or " No 
Name," Hearn (Heron), who were killed by lightning 
on 5th August 1831. The incident seems to have 
made a profound impression upon our Gypsies, and 
to this day it is everywhere remembered among the 
Anglo - Romany clans. A large company of the 
Boswells and H earns (Herons) appear to have halted 
at Tetford on their way to Horncastle August Fair, 
at that time a horse-mart of great importance. Over- 
taken by a thunderstorm, Tyso and No Name were 
sheltering in a barn, whither they had gone for some 
straw, when a stroke of lightning descended fatally 
upon them. 

An aged Gypsy, Lucy Brown (born in the year 
1807), once informed me that she remembered the 
incident quite clearly. Said she, " We were camping 
atop of Tetford Hill, just above Ruckland Valley, 

when the lightning struck the poor fellows. We 

238 



A GYPSY SEPULCHRE 239 

were on our way to Horncastle Fair. I mind it all, 
rashai, as if it had happened only yesterday." 

In Westarus Boswell's autobiography, recorded 
(in his own words) by Smart and Crofton in their 
work The Dialect of the English Gypsies, are some 
references to this event 

" I was born at Dover. My father (Tyso) was 
a soldier, and I was born in the army. My father, 
when I was born, was in charge of the great gun 
(Queen Anne's pocket-piece). After a while he 
came home, and left the army. He came down into 
Yorkshire, and there he stayed for many years, and 
all our family were brought up in that county, and 
there we all stayed after he was killed in Lincoln- 
shire. He died when I was a lad. The lightning 
struck him and another, both together. They were 
cousins. Our people put them both in one grave. 
There I left them, poor fellows. I was much 
grieved at it. He (Tyso) always dressed well. 
When he was buried, I took a wife, and went 
all over the country. ... His cousin's name was 
called No Name, because he was not christened 
till he was an old man, and then they called him 
Edward." 

A curious story attaches to " No Name " Hearn. 
His parents took him to church to be christened, 
and when the parson said, " Name this child," the 
Gypsy mother answered, " It's Jehovah, sir." " I 
cannot give your child that name," protested the 
clergyman. Whereupon the Gypsies stalked out of 



240 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

the church muttering, " He shall be called ' No 
Name,' " and by this fore-name he was known all 
through his life, although in his old age, as Westarus 
Boswell has told us, he was baptized in the name of 
Edward. 

As might be expected, the funeral of Tyso and 
Edward was attended by many Gypsies from far and 
near, and for some years afterwards the grave was 
visited annually by relatives, who are said to have 
poured libations of ale upon it. A grandson of Tyso 
relates that he once found a hole " as big as a fire 
bucket " in the side of the grave. This he stuffed 
with hay, and to my own knowledge the hole is still 
there, the brickwork of the vault having fallen in- 
ward. Aged folk at Tetford tell how a witch 
formerly lived in a cottage near the churchyard. 
One of her cats kittened down the hole in the vault, 
and passers-by would shudder to see the kittens bolt 
like rabbits into the Gypsies' grave. 

If the Gypsies possess any religion at all, it may 
be summed up in one sentence reverence for the 
dead. In bygone ages the Gypsies buried their dead 
in wild lonely spots, and though for many years the 
wanderers have been granted Christian burial, yet now 
and then an aged Romanitshel on his deathbed will 
express a desire to be laid to rest in the open and 
not in the churchyard. Moses Boswell, a Derby- 
shire Gypsy, requested that he might 'bej buried 
"under the fireplace," i.e. on the site of an encamp- 



BURIAL LORE 241 

ment of his people. When dying, Isaac Heron said, 
" Bury me under a hedge," a reminiscence of the 
earlier mode of sepulture. In his Lavengro, Borrow 
describes the burial of old Mrs. Herne : " The body 
was placed not in a coffin but on a bier, and carried 
not to the churchyard but to a deep dingle close by ; 
and there it was buried beneath a rock, dressed just 
as I have told (in a red cloak and big bonnet of 
black beaver) ; and this was done at the bidding of 
Leonora, who had heard her bebee (aunt) say that she 
wished to be buried, not in gorgeous fashion, but 
like a Roman woman of the old blood." 

On the information of some East-Anglian 
Gypsies, my friend, Mr. T. W. Thompson, a good 
tsiganologue, writes : " It must have been somewhere 
about 1830 when Borrow's friend, Ambrose Smith 
(Jasper Petulengro), found one of the Hernes burying 
his wife in a ditch near Gorleston, took the body 
away and gave it a Christian burial to prevent further 
trouble befalling the old man." 

In an entertaining volume entitled, Caravanning 
and Camping Out, Mr. J. Harris Stone describes a 
wayside Gypsy burial 

"Some twenty years ago a Gypsy died in an 
encampment near Lulworth Cove in Dorset, and a 
friend of mine, who had become great friends with 
the tribe because he used to go and sing comic songs 
to them and perform simple conjuring tricks, was 
asked to the funeral. He told me that the coffin was 
black, and the burial took place at the cross-roads 

16 



242 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

not exactly in the centre of the roadway where the 
highways crossed, but on the patch of roadside waste 
at the angle of one of the roads. Water was 
sprinkled on the coffin and earth thrown on, in 
the course of the ritual in Romany, but no parson 
was present." 

Near the grass-grown sand-dunes of an East 
Lincolnshire parish is a camping-place frequented by 
Gypsies for many years past. In turning up the soil 
thereabouts not long ago, some labourers came upon 
a human skeleton, probably that of a Gypsy who had 
been buried there. 

I give these instances because it has been strongly 
asserted that Christian burial only has been the 
Gypsies' usage for the last two hundred years. 

Sometimes a careful watch is kept over the body 
between death and burial. A Welsh correspondent 
who had an opportunity of observing this practice, 
writes : " I found my Romany friends seated around 
a fire, and close by in a van lay the dead wife of one 
of the company, awaiting burial on the morrow. 
Gypsies about here do not go to bed from the time 
of a death till after the funeral. They sit in company 
around the fire, and now and again fall back and 
doze, but at least three must keep awake. If only 
two were awake, one might drop off to sleep and that 
would leave only one. Fear of the ghost is given 
as the reason why they sit in company by the fire." 

As a rule, the corpse is attired in the best clothes 
worn during life. Sometimes the garments are turned 



BURIAL LORE 243 

inside out, a practice in Bulgarian mourning. When 
Zachariah Smith was buried in Yorkshire four years 
ago the following articles were enclosed in his coffin : 
a suit of clothes, besides the one he was wearing, 
watch and chain, a muffler, four pocket handkerchiefs, 
a hammer, a candle, and twopence. 

On the day after the funeral, old-fashioned 
Gypsies destroy the possessions of the dead, money 
excepted. All consumable belongings are burnt, 
while the crockery, iron utensils, and other articles are 
broken and dropped into a river, or buried, if no water 
is near. Jewellery is often disposed of in a similar 
manner. The horse of the deceased is either shot, 
or sold to the knackers to be destroyed. Fear of the 
ghost is the explanation of these ceremonies. So 
long as the possessions of the dead person remain 
intact, the ghost is believed to hover about them. 
In order, therefore, to dispel the ghost of the dead, 
his belongings are destroyed. 

Another observance, expressing in a striking manner 
the grief of the bereaved, is seen in their abstention 
for many years, or for ever, from the favourite food, 
beverage, or pastime of the loved one whom they 
have lost. One day Richard Petulengro called at 
my door and was offered refreshment in the kitchen 
" Not any ale, thank you. My brother died a bit 
ago, and he was wery fond of it. I don't touch 
it now." 

It is recorded of Old Isaac Joule that he would 
often spend whole nights watching by his Gypsy wife's 



244 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

tomb in Yatton churchyard. Her headstone, which 
may still be seen, bears the lines 

"Here lies Merily Joule 

A beauty bright : 
That left Isaac Joule 
Her heart's delight 
1827." 

Sometimes unusual articles are laid on graves. 
Upon his boy's grave, Bohemia Boswell deposited a 
little teapot from which the boy used to drink. 
Rodney Smith placed a breast-pin upon his mother's 
grave in Norton churchyard. 

Gypsies shrink from uttering the names of the 
dead. Fear of invoking the ghost underlies this 
ancient tabu. One of the Herons had a child named 
Chasey, who died, and now he never utters that name. 
He even invented a nickname for a friend bearing 
the name of Chasey, in order to avoid pronouncing 
the name of his own dead child. 

One day, during conversation with Frampton 
Boswell, Groome asked 

" How did you get your name, Frampton ; was it 
your father's ? " 

" I can't tell you that, but wait a minute." And 
going to his mother's caravan, he returned with a 
framed photograph of a gravestone. 

"That was my poor father's name, but I've never 
spoken it since the day he died." 

"He don't want her to walk," said my old friend, 
Frank Elliot, in explanation of a Gypsy's reluctance 



THE PASSING OF JONATHAN 245 

to mention his dead sister's name. A Gypsy boy 
was baptized Vyner Smith, but when his Uncle Vyner 
died, the boy was renamed Robert, because the name 
Vyner was too painful a reminder of the departed 
relation. 

A death-omen among Gypsies is the cry of the 
"death-hawk" heard over a camp by night. A 
Gypsy once told me how two crows and two yellow 
pigeons flew to and fro over him in a town street 
in the early morning. By these signs he knew 
that his wife had died in the hospital, and so it 
proved. 

Let me close this chapter with the passing of my 
old friend Jonathan Boswell. Not long ago tidings 
reached me that he had died in his travelling cart, in 
which I have spent some happy hours with him on 
the road. The last time I saw Jonathan alive he 
was seated by his fire on a little lonely common, and 
near him stood the old cart looking so very ramshackle 
that a gust of wind might almost have wrecked it. 
Among the tufted bog-rushes, the lambs were 
gambolling a few yards away. As I sat with him, 
my old friend talked of bygone jaunts we had taken 
together, and his grandson, who was present, recalled 
the day he once spent at our Rectory. With slow 
and feeble steps Jonathan walked with me to the edge 
of the common and waved his cap in farewell. I 
never saw him again. I like to think of the old man 
as, looking back, I saw him holding out his hand 



246 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

to fondle a lamb whose confidence he had won while 
camping on the common. 

About a month after receiving the news of the 
death of my old pal, I came upon his grandson, who 
told me that the vddo (cart) had been hots her do 
(burnt). The fragments which remained after the 
fire were duly buried, and the faithful nag had been 
sent away to the hunt-kennels. Thus, with the 
ancient ceremonies of his race, my old friend had 
been laid to rest. 

To THE ENGLISH GiPSiEs. 1 

"You soon will pass away; 
Laid one by one below the village steeple 

You face the East from which your fathers sprang, 
Or sleep in moorland turf, beyond the clang 
Of towns and fairs ; your tribes have joined the people 
Whom no true Romany will call by name, 
The folk departed like the camp-fiie flame 
Of withered yesterday." 



1 The Dark Ages and Other Poems. By L. 




Photo, Fred Shaw.] 



A LONDON GYPSY. 



[To face p. 246. 



CHAPTER XIX 
BIT SH ADO PAW DEL (TRANSPORTED) 

THICKLY sprinkled with Gypsy names are the 
" Transportation Lists" (1787-1867) reposing on 
the shelves of the Public Record Office in London ; 
yet as your eye scans those lists of names, how dull 
and ordinary they look. It is not until you embark upon 
the arduous task of tracking individuals in old news- 
paper files that you realize the charm of unearthing 
buried romances in which the Gypsies played a part. 

If, on the one hand, the wildness and roughness 
of the times are fully impressed upon your mind, 
there arises also the unedifying spectacle of British 
justices vicing with one another in their ardour for 
dispatching Gypsies across the sea on the most trivial 
pretexts. In the Transportation Lists both sexes 
are well represented, and occasionally one obtains 
the aliases borne by Gypsies at the time of their 
arrest. From a study of these aliases, it becomes 
possible to trace the origin of some of our modern 
Gypsy families, for it is quite in keeping with Romany 
usage for the children of an expatriated father to 
adopt his alias. 

I have never yet known an elderly Gypsy whose 



247 



248 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

memory lacked a store of what may be called trans- 
portation tales, and, listening to their recital, I have 
sometimes been saddened, if not angered. What can 
we of the twentieth century think of the " justice "(!) 
which sent a Romany mother across the sea for 
stealing a lady's comb valued at sixpence, or banished 
for seven years a middle-aged Gypsy man for the 
crime of appropriating three penny picture-books 
from a cottage doorway ? 

Over a few crimson embers on the ground I 
listened one summer evening to tales from the lips 
of one of the old Herons, as we sat together under 
a thorn hedge. For a theft of harness Solli Heron 
(my informant's uncle) was sentenced to a lengthy 
residence in an over-sea colony. The time came 
when he and a few Gypsy comrades were led out of 
prison and placed in chains on board the coach which 
was to convey them to the convict ship. By some 
means Solli had become possessed of a small file, 
wherewith, during the journey by coach, he managed 
to cut through his irons and make his escape into 
a wood. After an exciting chase through brake 
and brier, the Gypsy was recaptured and duly shipped 
across the sea. 

The following story shows that sometimes, when 
two Gypsies were implicated in a crime, one of 
them would endeavour to screen his companion. 
From the stables at Claremont House, Esher, during 
the period of the Princess (afterwards Queen) 
Victoria's residence, a horse and a mare were stolen 



BITSHADO PAWDEL (TRANSPORTED) 249 

by two Gypsies, an elderly man and a younger one. 
Early one foggy morning these fellows broke open 
the stable door and took the animals away. A hue- 
and-cry was set up, and, within a few days of the 
theft, the red-breasted " Runners" had made an 
arrest. In court, the Princess's coachman declared 
that he had seen two men near the stable, but the 
elder Gypsy persistently affirmed that he had done 
the business entirely alone, and his endeavour to screen 
his mate proved effectual. The young Gypsy was 
acquitted, but his companion was transported for life to 
Van Diemen's Land. 

The same spirit of self- sacrifice is seen in another 
incident 

A Gypsy tinker and a sweep were arrested for 
stealing a pony at a time when the penalty for horse- 
stealing was death. Said the sweep to the tinker 

"Why need two of us be hanged for this job? 
I'll swear that you know nothing about it." 

When the two were brought up for trial, the 
sweep, while readily admitting his own guilt, asserted 
the tinker's innocence with such vehemence that 
the judge and jury believed his tale. The tinker 
got twelve months in jail, but the sweep was hanged. 

In his Romany Word-Book, Borrow mentions 
the transportation of Fighting Jack Cooper, " once the 
terror of all the Light Weights of the English Ring, 
who knocked West Country Dick to pieces, and 



250 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

killed Paddy O'Leary, the fighting pot-boy, Jack 
Randall's pet." Jack Cooper and his brother Tom 
were transported under peculiar circumstances. Tom 
was the first to be sent away. It appears that the 
brothers went to a ball where, in the course of the 
evening, Jack " pinched" a silver snuff-box, and with- 
out meaning any harm dropped it into his brother's 
pocket. Presently the snuff-box was missed by its 
owner, and suspicion fell upon the Gypsies. A 
policeman was called in, and, while conversing with 
Tom, offered him a pinch of snuff. As the Gypsy 
removed a handkerchief from his pocket, out flew the 
snuff-box to his great astonishment, for he was 
unaware of the trick played by his brother. Speedily 
the handcuffs were slipped upon Tom's wrists, and in 
due course he was brought to trial. Before the judge, 
Jack swore that Tom was innocent, as indeed he was, 
but he was nevertheless sentenced to transportation. 

However, Jack's fate was not long delayed. 
" Infatuated with love for his paramour," (says 
Borrow), " he bore the blame of a crime which she 
had committed, and suffered transportation to save 
her." On the expiration of his lengthy term, he 
preferred to stay in Australia, where he made money 
by teaching young gentlemen the pugilistic art. 

There are more stories of this kind showing that 
innocent persons were at times sent across the water. 

Well-known to the Gypsies of our Midland 



BIT SH ADO PAW DEL (TRANSPORTED) 251 

counties is the story of Absalom Bos well's transporta- 
tion. One night the Gypsy father and his two sons 
sat talking in their tent, and, in order to rest his 
weary feet, the old man removed his shoes and soon 
fell asleep on the straw. One of the lads donned 
his father's footgear, and set off with his brother 
to latsher a bit of bokro-mas, which, being interpreted, 
means that they went to steal " mutton." Their 
errand was successful, but morning light brought a 
policeman to the camp, for the sheep had been 
missed and suspicion had fallen upon the Gypsies. 
An early riser, Absalom had put on his shoes and 
was walking abroad. He and his two sons were 
arrested. There were no witnesses to the theft, but 
a footprint had been discovered on a patch of clay 
in the farmer's field from which the sheep had been 
taken, and Absalom's shoe fitted the footprint ex- 
actly. On this shred of circumstantial evidence the 
old man was transported for seven years, while his 
sons were lodged in jail for twelve months. 

On Mitcham Common I once heard the following 
story from one of the Dightons. Seated on the 
wayside was a Gypsy making pegs, with his children 
playing around him, and, looking up from his work, 
he was surprised to see a well-dressed gawji (non- 
Gypsy) woman staring hard at him. She stood 
there without saying a word, until at last she moved 
slowly away. Then came a policeman to where 
the peg-maker sat 



252 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

" You must come along with me." 

"What for?" 

" You'll know when we get to the police station." 

A report had been handed in that a young woman 
had been found half-murdered in a green lane. She 
said a Gypsy had done it, and described the man 
to a detail, giving the colour of his hair, particulars 
of his dress, and the number of his children. " I 
am an innocent man," said the Gypsy, "and the 
Lord'll make her tell the truth before she dies." 
He was transported for seven years. Two years 
afterwards the lady fell ill, and confessed that the 
man was innocent. He was liberated, but on the 
homeward voyage he died. 

Yet another tale from the " tents of Egypt" 
John Chilcot was bitshado pawdel (transported), 
and his wife took it so much to heart that she 
would sit on the tent floor cutting up straw into 
pieces about an inch in length. At last she could 
endure it no longer. She craved for the sight of 
her husband, so she ts fiord tshumani (stole some- 
thing), and was sent away too. The strange part 
of the story is, that the same farmer who employed 
Chilcot on his farm in Van Diemen's Land, went 
and hired John's wife when she was sent out there. 
The woman came to John's cottage one day about 
sundown, and, looking through the open door, she 
saw him lacing his heavy boots, as he muttered to 
himself, " I must tshiv mi tshokaw opr an' jaw te 



BIT SH ADO PAW DEL (TRANSPORTED) 353 

dik de bokr" (I must put my boots on and go to 
see the sheep). 

" Awa, mi mush, tshiv len opr and ker sig" 
(Yes, my man, put them on and make haste). 
John looked up, and, seeing his own wife standing 
there, opened his arms and she dropped into them. 
The two worked together for months without the 
farmer knowing who the woman was, then one day 
John told him that she was his lawful wife, and 
they lived together till their time expired, when 
they came back to England. 

A story is told of one of the old Herons who 
had been transported, and, his term having expired, 
he wrote to his wife and family in England asking 
them to send fifty pounds. This they did, and a 
reply was received announcing the time of his arrival 
at a certain port. As a means of identification, he 
promised, on landing, to carry a small bundle of sticks 
on his right shoulder. His sons met him, and 
according to his promise he had the sticks on his 
shoulder. Now these sons were only tiny children 
when their father had been sent away, and did not 
remember what his features were like, but of course 
they were willing to accept him as their father, and 
rejoiced accordingly. Then came the meeting between 
the old man and his wife. But so completely had 
his features changed during the long years of 
absence that she failed to recognize him as her 
husband, even though he pointed to his old bottle- 



254 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

green coat still in her possession. It is said that 
he turned away sorrowfully, and died soon after of 
a broken heart. 

Moses Heron was on the Thames in a convict 
ship going to Australia for grai-tshonn. (horse- 
stealing). Some of his relatives went out in a boat 
to see the last of him, as his ship was anchored off 
shore. Moses took out his knife and cut his diklo 
(kerchief) from his neck and threw it overboard 
for them to take the knot back to his sweetheart. 
He cut the diklo from under his ear so that the knot 
was undisturbed but remained just as he had tied it. 

Stories of this character might be multiplied 
indefinitely, but the instances given will suffice to 
show how pathetic are the annals of the Gypsies. 

In a lecture delivered before the Leeds Philo- 
sophical and Literary Society, my friend, Mr. R. A. 
Scott Macfie, has justly estimated the character of 
the Anglo-Romanits&efe of to-day. 

" In Great Britain the Gypsies are at present 
exposed to a petty persecution, inflicted ostensibly 
for their good by illogical persons, who pretend to 
believe that they live unnatural lives and should be 
driven into town slums for the benefit of their health 
and morals. They are harassed by prosecutions on 
such curious pretexts as sleeping-out, overcrowding 
(in tents every inch of which admits the free passage 
of God's fresh air), possessing no dustbin, or neglect- 



BITSHADO PAW DEL (TRANSPORTED) 255 

ing to provide a proper water supply for their 
habitations. Yet, on the whole, in this country they 
have for the last century received less unpleasant 
attention and more sympathy than elsewhere, and 
it is very noteworthy that they have responded to 
this kindness by adopting the civilized conception 
of their duty towards their neighbour. I have many 
hundreds of press cuttings from British newspapers 
published during the last few years. They prove 
that the Gypsies of this country are never guilty of 
the greater crimes. The majority of the convictions 
are for almost inevitable offences, such as halting 
in the road or allowing horses to stray. Gypsies 
have, of course, rather primitive views as to rights 
of property, especially in respect of what grows or 
moves upon the earth in a more or less wild state, 
yet, while there are an appreciable number of 
instances of poaching, fortune-telling, and of certain 
traditional Gypsy swindles, most of the cases of 
so-called theft are very insignificant petty larcenies 
a handful of fruit taken from an orchard, a few swedes 
from a field, or a stick or two from the hedge. So 
conspicuous is the law-abiding character of the British 
Gypsies in my records, and in my personal experience, 
that I do not hesitate to assert, that, in spite of their 
reputation, they are as superior in honesty to the 
lower classes of our native population as they are 
in morality and cleanliness." 



CHAPTER XX 
A ROMANY MUNCHAUSEN 

THE Gypsies are an imaginative folk, delighting, like 
children, in romances and romancing ; and if one 
may judge from the array of folk-tales 1 already 
collected from them, these wanderers appear to 
possess the gift of story-telling in generous measure. 
To this day, in Eastern Europe, the Gypsies still 
pursue their ancient role of tale-telling, mystifying 
their hearers with stories which perhaps they brought 
out of India many centuries ago. Here, in the West, 
no one can mingle intimately with members of the 
Gypsy clan of Wood, amid the mountains of Wales, 
without feeling the charm of the wonderful tales 
handed down to them from their forelders. 

Sometimes I have seen the beginning of a folk- 
tale in a fragment of narrative reeled off by a Gypsy 
on the spur of the moment. 

A London Gypsy had been fiddling for my 
delectation, and, when he ceased, I asked him quite 
casually why, being a Gypsy, his hair was fair ? 
Without a moment's reflection he replied, " I'll tell 
you why my hair is fair. One winter night I slept 

1 Gypsy Folk-Tales^ by Francis Hindes Groome (London, 1899). 

256 



A ROMANY MUNCH AUSEN 257 

with my head outside the tent, and of course my 
hair froze to the ground. When I woke in the 
morning I shouted for help, and my daddy poured 
boiling water on my hair to get it loose. That's why 
my bal \ pawni " (my hair is fair). 

An impromptu " lying tale " intended to amuse. 

Groome, in his Gypsy-Folk Tales (Introduction, 
p. Ixxxi.), notices the same sort of thing in a fanciful 
outburst on the part of a Gypsy girl. " She had been 
to a pic-nic in a four-in-hand, with * a lot o' real tip- 
top gentry ' ; and 'reia ' (sir), she said to me afterwards, 
' I'll tell you the comicalist thing that ever was. 
We'd pulled up to put the brake on, and there was a 
puro hotchiwitchi (old hedgehog) come and looked 
at us through the hedge, looked at me hard. I could 
see he'd his eye on me. And home he'd go, that old 
hedgehog, to his wife, and " Missus," he'd say, " what 
d'ye think ? I seen a little Gypsy gal just now in a 
coach and four hosses," and " Dabla" she'd say, 
"sawk&mi 'as vade kenaw" (Bless us, every one has 
carriages now).' ' 

Years ago I used to hear our English Gypsies 
speak of a certain Happy Boz'll, a Gypsy given to 
romancing about his own affairs. He was always 
the hero of his own stones, and to this day, among 
our Gypsies, a Happy Boz'll tale is a synonym for 
a "crammer." 

It was once my good fortune at Lincoln Fair to 
come upon a van-dwelling horse-dealer, close upon 
his eightieth year, whose early days were spent in 



258 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

the company of Happy Boz'll, and from him I 
obtained the tales given below : 

Old Happy had a donkey, and one day it was 
lost. Up and down the green lanes the Gypsy 
searched for the missing animal and found it not. 
At last, as he was wandering under some trees, he 
heard a familiar noise overhead. The sound came 
from the top of a big ash tree, and sure enough, when 
Happy looked up, there was the old donkey among 
the topmost boughs. 

"What are you doing there?" shouted Happy. 

" I'm gathering a bundle of sticks for your fire." 

And saying this, the donkey climbed down with a 
bunch of nice ash sticks. 

At one time Happy, who was a tinker and grinder 
by trade, possessed a grinding-barrow made out of a 
whole block of silver, and whenever he was thirsty 
he had only to chop off a lump of silver and go to 
the nearest inn to get as much ale as he could carry. 
In course of time his barrow grew smaller, and there 
came a day when Happy had no barrow at all. He 
had swallowed it. 

One day Happy's wife, Becky, said to him 
" Go and get a bucket of drinking water." 
Away he went to the spring, and, having filled the 
bucket, he paused to take a drink from it, and going 
on again he stumbled and spilt the water. When 
he got home he appeared before his wife with an 
empty bucket in his hand. 




BLACK A3 A BOZ'LL. 



A ROMANY MUNCHAUSEN 259 

"Why haven't you brought the water?" asked 
Becky. 

"Well, my blessed, I filled the bucket right 
enough, but on the way back the water started 
a-laughing at me, and I couldn't carry it no furder. 
Ay, the water laughed itself out of the bucket, it did 
every little drop of it. There, now I've told you." 

Another time Happy was crossing a field, and 
seeing a sack filled with something he went up and 
examined it, and there, if it wasn't full of eggs. He 
picked up the sack and carried it away on his back, 
and never cracked one of them. 

Happy was once walking beside a hedge, cracking 
nuts. He had pockets and pockets full of them, and 
he happened to fling a nutshell over the hedge, and 
it hit a wery fine hare and killed it. Wasn't that 
strange now ? 

Happy never owned a wagon. He and his wife 
travelled all their lives with a pack-donkey and a 
tent. One night their tent took fire, and in a little 
while they had nothing left in the world save the 
donkey and its blinkers. The next morning, as they 
crept out from under the hedge, Happy said to his 
wife, "We shall have to beg wery hard to-day." By 
the evening they had done so well that they had 
provided themselves with an entirely new outfit 
Under the hedge stood the finest tent you ever saw. 



260 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Inside it were new blankets, new bedding, new 

everything. 

" Well, my Becky, how do you like it?" 

" We haven't done so badly after all, my Happy. 

We've got a better tent and a better supper than we 

had last night." 

"And I'm thinking, my Becky," said Happy, 

laughing softly, "that it's wonderful like getting 

married again." 

Happy was once going along a road over the 
Peak o' Derby. He hadn't gone far before he saw 
a cart full of the very best china, delicate stuff all 
coloured and gilded, and between the shafts stood 
a fine horse with silver-plated harness. There they 
were on the wayside grass and nobody with them. 
Happy lit his pipe and waited a bit to see if their 
owner came along. But nobody came. So he led 
the horse and cart to an inn just round the bend of 
the road, and asked the landlord if he knew who was 
the owner, but he didn't know. On and on went 
Happy, up hill and down dale, inquiring everywhere 
for the owner of the horse and pot-cart, but nowhere 
could he light on the gentleman, though he nearly 
broke his heart with anxiety in trying his best to 
find him. 

Happy one day took his dog a-hunting. Two 
hares started up, but the dog couldn't run after both 
of them at once. Just then, however, the dog ran 



A ROMANY MUNCH AUSEN 261 

against a scythe-blade and cut itself in two. One 
half of the dog ran after one hare and caught it. 
The other half of the dog ran after the second hare 
and caught it. The hares were brought to Happy's 
feet. Then the two halves of the dog came together 
again. And the dog died. Happy took off the skin 
and patched his knee-breeches with it. Just a year 
afterwards, to the very day, his breeches burst open 
and barked at him. 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE GYPSY OF THE HILLS IN THE HEART OF 
WALES A WESTMORLAND HORSE-FAIR 

I 

May 12. Just as I stepped out of the train at 
Corwen, thick vapours, blotting out the mountains, 
made up their minds to let down rain. Five years 
before, on landing at the same station, it was only 
to find a tornado howling over the land and heavy 
rain falling. That wild night I'm not likely to forget 
in a hurry. . . . 

At last, after an hour's wait in a snug hostelry, 
I set off along the Holyhead Road, having a certain 
encampment in my mind's eye. At the "Goat" Inn, 
where the by-road turns off for Bettws-Gwerfil-Goch, 
I made inquiry for the said camp, but the landlord 
only shook his head. One of his daughters, how- 
ever, hearing my question, said she knew where it 
was, and coming with me to the door indicated the 
whereabouts of the caravans of my quest. By now 
the rain had ceased, and, in a few moments, round a 
bend in the highway, the outline of a Gypsy tent, 
with a caravan and a tilt-cart standing near it, caught 
my eye against a row of twisted oaks in a wayside 



THE GYPSY OF THE HILLS 263 

field. On entering the camp there were hearty greet- 
ings from Gilderoy Gray and Oli Purum, his travelling 
pal. The ruddy glow in the fire-bucket made the 
tent's interior an inviting spot for tea, and there was 
plenty of fun that evening. Outside : the dark night 
with a roaring wind in the oak trees. Within : a 
wood-fire lit up the red blankets stretched over the 
curved tent-rods, and upon a well-made couch of 
straw (covered with rugs) we reckned. Oli was in 
fine form for tale-telling, and his pipe often went out. 
Gilderoy, too, had heaps of things to tell. Was ever 
a lover of the road better stocked with anecdotes 
than he ? 

In the tilt-cart I made my bed, and slept as 
soundly as a dormouse. 

May 13. At 5 a.m. the sun was shining gloriously 
upon the mountains. Wash and breakfast in the 
open air. In the forenoon we three took the hilly 
road leading to Bettws-Gwerfil-Goch. A light breeze 
from off the mountains carried the smell of spring 
everywhere. The birds were all a-twitter in the leaf- 
ing woods. Blue speedwells, white stars of stitch- 
wort, bee-haunted gorse bloom all turned to salute 
the sovereign sun glowing down upon the land. 
Gilderoy, ever a good walker, was soon pegging 
on ahead ; then at a stile in a hedge he would wait 
until Oli and I came up. Just below the village of 
Bettws-Gwerfil-Goch, we stood on the puri porj (old 
bridge) and watched the trout leap in the vandyke- 
brown pools of the river Alwen. On to the " Hand " 



264 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

tavern, my ideal village inn. George Borrow saw 
the interiors of many such houses during his tramps 
through " Wild Wales." Nor are we likely to forget 
the kindness we received at the home of a certain 
great Scholar-Gypsy and Gypsy-Scholar, perched 
upon a high point commanding a magnificent 
landscape. 

About tea-time a jolly face appeared at our tent 
door, announcing the arrival of Gil'roy's brother Jim, 
and, just as dusk was enfolding the scene, a merry 
boy came bounding into the camp. This was 
Deborah Purum's Willy, who told us that Bala Fair 
was to take place on the morrow. Lively indeed 
was our camp this evening, for had not our company 
increased by two? Resolving to set off in good 
time toward Bala in the morning, we slipped into 
our beds about midnight, and soon forgot to listen to 
the owls hooting mournfully in the woods. 

May 14. A white mist on the mountains foretold 
a fine day, and by 6.30 we were breakfasting on 
trout and bacon done over a wood fire. Then 
harnessing the mare to the tilt-cart, we all climbed 
aboard, and away we rattled towards Bala. The 
wayside woods were empurpled with hyacinths, and 
on the hedge-banks little bushes of bilberry hung out 
their crimson flowers. OH Purum, who is half a 
Welsh Gypsy, could tell us the very names of the 
families who had camped round the black patches 
on the roadsides. Springing off the cart, he would 
examine the heaps of willow-peelings with a critical 




OLI PURUM. 



Photo, Fred Sham] 




A GYPSY HARPIST. 

Photo, IV. Ferguson.]'^ a [To face p. 264. 



IN THE HEART OF WALES 265 

eye. " Awa, (yes) I thought so. It's some of the 
Klisons (Locks) that's been katskm akai (stopping 
here)." A splendid trotter, our mare made light 
work of pulling the tilt-cart over those seventeen 
miles down the vale to Bala. Of course we were 
all wondering as to the Gypsies we might see at the 
fair. What a crowd of farm-folk we found filling 
the streets on our arrival. Just in front of the 
" White Lion " hostelry, I saw a potter- woman 
standing before a spread of crockery of all shapes 
and sizes on the side of the road, and, curiously 
enough, I had once met her son, Orlando Fox, at 
Bristol. 

Little did we dream, however, of the surprise 
awaiting us here in Bala. Elbowing our way 
through the dense crowd, it was Gilderoy who was 
the first to exclaim, " Dik odoi" (Look there), and 
turning our gaze that way, there, sure enough, was a 
very dark old Gypsy with grizzled locks and glittering 
black eyes. His garments were weathered by long 
wear amid the mountains, and in him I recognized 
the patriarchal Matthew (a descendant of Abraham 
Wood) whom I had met some years before. 

The Woods preserve many stories of Abraham, 
their earliest known progenitor, who flourished about 
the beginning of the eighteenth century. Entering 
Wales from Somerset, he brought with him a violin, 
and is supposed to have been the first to play upon 
one in the Principality. According to tradition, " He 
always rode on a blood-horse, would not sleep in the 



266 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

open but in barns, wore a three-cocked hat with gold 
lace, a red silk coat, a waistcoat embroidered with 
green leaves, had half-crowns for buttons on his coat, 
sported white breeches gaily decked with ribbons, 
pumps with silver buckles and spurs, a gold watch 
and chain, and two gold rings." Many of Abraham's 
descendants are excellent players on the harp, and 
all, without exception, speak pure, deep, inflected 
Romany, akin to the beautiful musical dialect spoken 
by the Gypsies of Eastern Europe. Angling all 
summer, fiddling or harping all winter, such is the 
life of the Gypsy Woods of Wales. 

It was with joy that we rambled with Matty along 
the shore of Bala Llyn, a glittering mirror in the sun- 
shine broken only by rings made by rising fish. The 
windless day of surnmerlike quality induced our little 
party to loiter by the lake, and when at length we 
turned to come away, there on the road stood a 
Romany lass with her little brother, as merry a pair 
as ever wore Gypsy togs. To me it was very delight- 
ful to hear their fluent Welsh Romany. 

There was no difficulty in persuading Matty to 
accompany us to our camp at Maerdy. He seemed only 
too glad to escape into the sweet open country after 
the close atmosphere of the town streets. And how 
the mare did travel after her feed and rest ! On and 
on up the mountain road we went, startling the 
horned sheep on the unfenced roadsides. Now and 
then Matty would point out the spots where his old 
folks used to camp. Well away from the town, we 



IN THE HEART OF WALES 267 

took a bite of bread and cheese at a tiny white inn 
backed by a strip of pine forest, from whose shadows 
darted a grey sheep-dog almost wolf-like in its leanness 
of figure and sharpness of nose. What a penetrating 
bark it had too ! 

A few more miles of rough road, with here a 
lone farm and there a cottage with lumps of white 
spar on its window-ledges, brought us once again to 
the "Cymro," Maerdy, where we encountered a 
funny horse-breaker, reminding one of Borrow's 
gossipy ostlers. Oli Purum's tricks here "took the 
cake," and to the delight of his audience he kept up 
a constant stream of them. 

To-night we felt that fate had been extraordin- 
arily kind to us, as by the fire we sat listening to 
Matty's weird tales and to Oli's rendering of " The 
Shepherd of Snowdon " and other Welsh airs on his 
violin. A rare stock of tales has Matty stories 
replete with enchanted castles, green dragons, witches, 
ghosts, and the hero is nearly always a clever Gypsy 
named Jack. Matty is Oli's cousin, and it is charm- 
ing to see how happy they are together. 

To me this is a holiday indeed. The utter 
absence of conventionality, and the diversions of the 
Gypsy life, are as balm to one's nerves. 

May 1 5. To-day is another blue and golden fore- 
taste of summer. Along the banks of the Alwen, 
dodging in and out among huge boulders, climbing 
fences, scrambling through the masses of flowering 
gorse and broom, Gilderoy, Matty, and I made our 



268 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

way to Bettws-Gwerfil-Goch. In the old inn, a cool 
retreat after the broiling sunshine in the wooded valley, 
we sat awhile. Years ago I saw Matty and his sons 
dance on the blue-stone floor of this room, just after 
the New Year had come in a time when all Welsh 
folk are merry with fiddle and song. 

On getting back to our camp in the early evening, 
all hands set to work, some gathering sticks, others 
fetching water, and soon the supper was spread inside 
the roomy tent. Tales and talk till the late-rising 
moon glinted through the holes nibbled by field-mice 
in the tent blankets. Then to dreamland. 

May 1 6. This morning I find thin ice on a pail 
of water standing in the open. How bracing to com- 
plete your toilet in the cool air from the mountains. 
See with what tenderness the sunlight colours the 
rocks up there by the hillside farmstead. For the 
first time since coming into Wales I hear the cuckoo 
calling in the woods. High up on the slope I see 
a black horse dragging a hurdle with thorn boughs 
weighted by stones a primitive harrow. I'll have a 
scamper down the road through the keen air of morn, 
before the sun has drunk up all the dew. 

After breakfast I go a-fishing. Home in the 
afternoon to find some of the Gypsy Locks coming 
down the Holyhead Road with their carts and 
ponies ; a delightful party, and much rokerben (con- 
versation) followed. 

A little later Gilderoy and I drive in the tilt- 
cart to Corwen to fetch Fred o' the Bawro Gav. 




Photo, W. Ferguson.} 



A HAPPY PAIR. 




A CHAT BY THE GATE. 

Photo, W. Ferguson.} [To face p. 268. 



IN THE HEART OF WALES 269 

This means more fun for us round the evening fire. 
When depressed in days to come, I want to remember 
that flow of Gypsy mirth away there under the shadow 
of Cader Dinmael, while the oak-groves outside our 
tent whispered in the rising wind of night. 

May 17. Farewell, tent and caravan and tilt-cart. 
Farewell, old pals beside your smoking fires. Fare- 
well, sweet Wales and your beautiful mountains. 
To-day I return to civilization. 

OH Purum drove me to Corwen station, and by night 
I am at home again on the Wolds of Lincolnshire. 

II 

September 27. We are at Sedbergh, a little grey 
town at the foot of the Yorkshire Fells. Stone walls, 
narrow streets, old inns all have their outlines 
softened by the mellow shadows, half-golden, half- 
brown, stealing over the place this afternoon. Look- 
ing out from a tavern window I experience a thrill. 
There in the street stand two vehicles, a vado and a 
tilt-cart, with sleek horses between their shafts. 
That tilt-cart I should know anywhere, for under its 
weathered hood I have dreamt happy dreams. 

" I say, pals, we must be stirring. Come along," 
exclaims Gilderoy Gray, rising from his corner on 
the smooth-worn settle. We follow our leader into 
the street, and, boarding those vehicles, we are not 
long in getting clear of Sedbergh town. Bound for 
Brough Hill Horse-Fair, our party of six never had 



270 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

a gayer prospect. Here we are on the road again 
Gil'roy, Merry Jim, Fred o' the Bawro Gav, OH 
Purum, his son Willy, and the Gypsy's Parson. . . . 

But even the brightest of September days must 
wane, and soon to right and left of us dark ridges lift 
themselves against the fading light. Our first stage 
is a short one. Nightfall sees us pull up at Cautley 
Crag, where we seek a stopping-place in the small 
croft adjoining the lonely white inn on the roadside. 
However, the gate proves too narrow to admit our 
carts, so we draw upon the wayside turf, under the 
shelter of a stone wall. Nimble as ever, OH erects 
the red blanket tent in the croft, and Willy busies 
himself in building a good fire. When an abundance 
of brown bracken has been laid down in the tent 
(no fresh straw is to be had), the customary rugs are 
spread and we sit down to supper. Pipes and chatter 
make the evening hours fly. There is so much Gypsy 
news to talk over. At last, having placed a warning 
lantern, like a pendant star, on one of the carts, we 
tumble into our beds and quickly fall asleep. 

September 28. A keen, clear autumn morn making 
you feel how good it is to be alive. After pottering 
about the camp, Gilderoy and I wander along the 
bank of the roaring Rawthey, while Jim and Fred, 
lured by the shine and glamour of the sunlit 
mountains, set off across the dewy moor for a closer 
look at the " Spout," as the waterfall up the dingle is 
described on the map. Down by the plank-bridge I 
stand and look at the fells all a-shimmer in the sun. 



A WESTMORLAND HORSE-FAIR 271 

Far up beyond the region of stone walls, built (says 
our OH) in the days when labourers received a wage 
of a penny a day, one's eye follows the forms of 
mountain ponies, horned sheep, and a couple of 
shepherds roaming with their dogs. Nearer, on the 
river-bank, are small companies of geese preening 
their feathers in the sunshine. I hear from our 
landlord that prowling hill-foxes sometimes snap up a 
goose on the moor. . . . 

Breakfast over, we were busy packing when some 
of the Whartons (Oli's relations) passed by in their 
light accommodation carts en route for B rough Fair, 
so OH and Willy must needs rush out to gather the 
latest news of the road. This meant a trifling delay 
in our getting off, for Gypsies are loquacious. How- 
ever, by 9.30 we were once more " on travel," feeling 
blithe as larks. Rumble-rumble went the wheels on 
the road, and all was going as merry as a marriage 
bell until a single magpie flitted across our track. 
Observing the bird of ill-omen, I quoted the old- 
time ditty 

" One for sorrow, two for mirth, 
Three for a wedding, four for a birth." 

" That's only an old woman's tale," quoth the 
Gypsy, flicking the horse's glossy back with the ends 
of the reins. Yet, a mile or so farther on, OH was 
the first to discover that the horse had cast a shoe. 
Handing over the reins, the lithe Gypsy went off at a 
trot, and not long after he came up flaunting the lost 



272 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

shoe, just as the smith at Court Common was ready, 
tools in hand, to put it on. 

Under the lee of a wood of bronzed beeches we 
made a stick fire to warm the stew-pot, while the 
smith replaced the shoe amid an interested group of 
yokels who had popped up from goodness knows where. 

The wonderfully transparent atmosphere of this 
region appears to possess magnifying powers, for 
even the poultry on the distant knolls assume the 
forms of huge birds, and as for the gaunt lady who 
sat " taking the air" on a lonesome bench half a mile 
away, she would have passed right enough for the 
wife of Goliath, if that celebrity ever possessed a missis. 

In a locality like this, romance and poetry 
meet one at every turn. A commonplace duck-pond 
in a grassy hollow does not, perhaps, suggest the 
glamorous things of life ; yet the small tarn lying 
before us in the sunshine is the subject of a curious 
local legend. Here, says tradition, you are treading 
upon fairy ground, for in this dimple in front of the 
beech wood you have a bottomless pool \ 

As for yon grey house amid the trees on the 
common's upper edge, well, the man for whom it was 
built lived in it but a day and died, and over the doorway 
somebody has inscribed the text, "Occupy till I come." 

Soon after quitting the common, Wild Boar Fell 
begins to mark the skyline on our right, and now all 
around us lies a realm of strewn rocks 

" Crags, knolls, and mounds, confusedly hurled, 
The fragments of an earlier world." 







'NEATH CAUTLEY CRAG. 



Photo, Fred Shaiv.} 




A BOTTOMLESS POOL. 

Photo, Fred Shaw.} [To face p. 272. 



A WESTMORLAND HORSE-FAIR 273 

A stiff push up the inclines brought us at last 
to the high point from whence the road dipped into 
the long straggling town of Kirkby-Stephen. Verily 
the place seemed to have dropped asleep in the 
September sun. With as little delay as possible we 
held on our way until, by 5 p.m., we had made Warcop 
and had pitched behind the farmhouse where we had 
stayed on previous happy occasions. 

With all hands to work, the tent was put up in 
record time, and as the ruddy sundown tinged the 
tree boles near our camp, we gathered round the 
fire for the evening meal. Thus closed a superb 
summerlike day. 

September 29. Somewhere about 7 a.m. a whiff 
of tobacco smoke comes curling pleasantly round the 
edge of our bunk in the tilt-cart, and I become aware 
that my bedmate, Fred o' the Bawro Gav, is dressing. 
" There's a heavy dew this morning," says he, turning 
back the coverings at the entrance of the cart ; and 
in a little while I am up and washing outside, and 
perceive for myself that the cobwebs on the hedge 
are delicately jewelled with drops of dew. " Look 
at the calves," says Fred, " pretty fellows, aren't they?" 
My companion has quite a farmer's eye for things, 
and as a weather-prophet he rarely makes a mistake. 
Overhead low clouds are rolling, or rather masses of 
dove-coloured mist, with patches of blue sky showing 
between, and already the mountains rising to the 
north are richly bathed in sunshine. 

During the forenoon Gilderoy, Fred, and I 

18 



274 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

stretch our legs in a stroll upon the sunlit " Hill," 
where the Gypsies are encamped in considerable 
numbers for the morrow's great horse-fair. Many 
familiar faces greet us on every hand. Now it is Pat 
Lee who springs out from a group and nearly twists 
off Fred's hand, so vigorous is the shaking it receives, 
and now I am honoured by an invitation to test the 
weight of Femi Coleman's new baby. From the 
doorway of a gorgeous vddo Sophia Lovell thrusts out 
her black poll and inquires after our Oli. In this manner, 
with many variations, we make our way between the 
camps, and our ramble proves enjoyable in every way. 
Going back to the wagons at Warcop, we drop 
into an inn, and by a bit of luck it happens that a 
"character" is present in the person of " Fiddling" 
Billy Williams, the wandering minstrel, who at our 
request takes his brown violin from a bag on his back 
and plays some lively airs, and Oli and Willy Purum, 
who have turned up, dance cleverly to a tune or two 
on the smooth-worn, blue-stone floor. But Old Billy 
I cannot take my eyes off him. Look at his weathered 
coat (a gift from Lord Lonsdale) which in the course 
of years has lost its nap and shows here and there 
patches of a ruddy lower layer ; surely the nondescript 
garment suits the grizzled old wanderer to perfection. 
Watching him closely, I observe that he has a very 
passable acquaintance with the Gypsy tongue, so, 
edging towards him, I drop a deep sentence into his 
ear. How he starts! "You know something," 
says he. Then he goes on to tell me that as a boy 




A WANDERING MINSTREL. 

Photo, Fred S/tatv.] [To face /. 274. 



A WESTMORLAND HORSE-FAIR 275 

he travelled with no less renowned a personage than 
John Roberts, the Welsh Gypsy harpist. Here's a 
find. Who ever expected to meet a pupil of Old 
Janik's in a remote Westmorland inn? Billy says 
that Roberts taught him how to " scrape music off these 
things," twanging the fiddle-strings with a forefinger, 
and smiling sweetly as he does it. For myself, I 
count this meeting with Fiddling Billy one of the 
" events " of our trip. 

In the evening we again rambled on the " Hill " 
to see a memorable sight hundreds of Gypsy fires 
with rings of dark figures squatting around the blazing 
logs. A feast for the eyes of a lover of the nomads 
was this array of firelit faces set against a background 
of caravans, stone walls, and mountains. 

September 30. A fine morning with a cool wind 
blowing from the east. As we sat at breakfast, a 
clatter of hoofs on the road announced belated arrivals 
for the fair. Early in the forenoon we found our- 
selves in the thick of the crowd, which, to me, seemed 
as big as ever on B rough Hill. Once upon a time 
this fair used to last a whole week, much more indeed 
for the Gypsy element, but nowadays the last day of 
September and the first day of October are the only 
recognized dates. Droves of fell ponies took up a 
large space on the fair-ground. A few heavy horses 
and a sprinkling of "bloods" met the eye at times. 
For one thing we could see our Gypsy friends busy 
upon their " native heath," for where is a Gypsy at 
home if it is not at a horse-fair ? 



276 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

As evening approached, an ugly bank of inky- 
black cloud came over the mountains, and the wind 
in rude gusts began to wail, Valkyrie-like, in the tree- 
tops, and to shake our wagons in a way that reminded 
one of a night at sea. Thus the day which had 
opened so gaily ended in real " B rough weather." 

An authority on that local phenomenon known as 
the " Helm " wind writes : " The field of its operation 
extends from near B rough for a distance of perhaps 
thirty miles down the Eden Valley towards Carlisle, 
and is sharply restricted to the belt lying between 
the Pennines and the river ; never, on the one hand, 
being encountered on the actual summit of the range, 
and never, on the other, crossing the water. Bitterly 
cold, it rushes like a tornado down the slope, and 
works havoc in the valley below. If the " Helm " 
happens to blow during the fair, the proprietors of 
scores of refreshment tents may usually bid farewell 
to all the canvas they possess." 

The Gypsies, to whom I have ever mentioned 
the "Helm" wind at B rough, invariably shrug their 
shoulders, as if it were an old friend, and not a very 
welcome one at that. 

October i. We were all afoot in good time this 
morning, six o'clock or thereabouts, and right glad 
we were to see the sun breaking through the mists 
over Brough Fox Tower. Taking a halter apiece, 
Fred and I went to fetch the horses. Breakfast ; 
then we packed, and away we went. " Good-bye, old 
camping-place," we said, as the wagons reached the 



A WESTMORLAND HORSE-FAIR 277 

Musgrave ramper, for very pleasant had been our 
sojourn by the spreading trees beyond the old farm- 
house. On the way to Kirkby-Stephen, many light 
carts rattled past, going south, and, after the stiff pull 
out of the town, it was good to be once more on the 
open road with the keen mountain air blowing on our 
faces from over wide leagues of rocks and heather. 

By early evening we had reached Cautley, where, 
as before, we drew on to the strip of wayside turf, 
and in quick time a couple of plump fowls were 
roasting in the black pot over a wood fire. To watch 
Oli prepare and cook those fowls was an object- 
lesson to be remembered. Bravo, Oli, our Romany 
chef! 

Realizing that this was our last evening in the 
wilds, we were in no hurry to get between the 
blankets. So we stretched out the tales, and 
meandered leisurely through the fields of reminiscence, 
while the cloud of tobacco smoke grew denser around 
us, and the stars o' night shone more and more 
brightly over Cautley's black crag. 

October 2. Up at seven to find the sky almost 
free from clouds and holding out the promise of a 
brilliant wind-up. After breakfast we set off for 
Lancaster, near whose castle we parted ; and now, 
over fireside pipes, my notebook and its jottings 
possess the power to make every sight and sound of 
the journey live again. 



CHAPTER XXII 
FURZEMOOR 

ARE you seeking a recipe for youth ? Go a-Gypsying. 
Forth to the winding road under the open sky, the 
Gypsies are calling you. Scorning our hurrying 
mode of life, these folk are content to loiter beneath 
the green beeches, or in the shadow of some old inn 
on the fringe of a windy common. Like Nature 
herself, these wildlings of hers overflow with the 
play-spirit and therefore remain ever youthful. To 
rub shoulders with them, I have found, is to acquire 
a laughing indifference to dull care and all its melan- 
choly train. Whoever then would grow light-hearted 
and become just a happy child of sun and star and 
stream, let him respond to the call of the road : let 
him go a-Gypsying. 

Long ago I observed that during the pleasanter 
months of the year a few families of wanderers were 
generally to be found encamped upon a secluded 
waste which I will call Furzemoor where, by the 
courtesy of the owner, they were allowed to remain as 
long as they pleased. They resorted thither, so it 
seemed to me, to recuperate from the effects of their 



FURZEMOOR 279 

winter's sojourn upon the city ash-patches hemmed 
in by unsavoury gas-lit streets. 

One April afternoon, following close upon a lengthy 
stay in London, I remember how blithely I tramped 
along the grassy cart-track, which, after winding 
between hedgerows full of green sprays, sweet odours 
and tinkling bird - notes, emerged upon rugged 
Furzemoor one of those few places which in after 
years become for you backgrounds of dream-like 
delight by reason of the memories associated with 
them. Is it not to such spots that the fancy turns 
when the mood of the commonplace hangs heavily 
upon you, and any shred of adventure would be more 
stirring to the heart than " the cackle of our burg," 
which is too often mistaken for "the murmur of the 
world " ? 

No matter how often I came, the moor had ever 
the power to stir one's imagination anew by its 
suggestive atmosphere of the remote, the aloof, the 
wild ; and having paused at the end of the lane to 
renew old recollections, I went forward and peered 
over the edge of a declivity fringed with bushes of 
furze in golden flower. Ah ! there below the slope, 
kissed by the warm sun and fanned by the breath 
of spring from off the heath, lay the brown tents, 
tilt-carts, and smouldering fires of a Romany camp, 
looking strangely deserted save for a girlish figure 
reclining near one of the fires over which a kettle 
was slung. Pushing between the bushes, my blunder- 
ing feet loosened some large stones which rolled 



2 8o THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

down the bank with a rattle, causing the girl to look 
sharply over her shoulder, and simultaneously from 
her red lips came a warning whistle, a shrill penetrat- 
ing note first ascending then dropping again. I had 
heard that whistle of old and knew well its significance. 
In response thereto a Gypsy man appeared from behind 
the tents, his keen eyes gleaming with recognition. 
" Hey, rashai, we's been a- talking about you lately. 
Only last night I was saying, p'raps our pass'n 
will be coming to see us one of these days, and here 
you are ! " 

Such was the greeting I got from Gypsy Sam, 
who now wheeled about and walked me off to a sandy 
hollow where his wife Lottie and her bairns sat by 
the fire. On catching sight of me, the children a 
black-eyed troop raised a shout of welcome, and, 
like little savages, soon began tugging at my coat 
tails. After an absence of several months from the 
camping-place this was a joyful meeting, and I guessed 
that my friends had much news to tell. 

" It's no use pretending to offer you a chair," said 
Lottie, giving my hand a hearty shake, "for we 
haven't got one. If there's anything I does detest, 
it's chairs. The nasty things make sich draughts 
about 'ur legs." So, squatting on the ground, I 
awaited the unfolding of the family budget. 

There was a touch of the Orient on every side. 
Stuck in the wind-rippled sand under a bold wall of 
rock were curved tent-rods with brown blankets 
pinned round them. Between the golden furze- 



FURZEMOOR 281 

clumps a lean horse and a shaggy ass ripped the 
grasses. A greyhound lay asleep under a tilt-cart 
upon the shafts of which sundry gay garments were 
hanging to dry. Upon this picture my eye rested 
with pleasure. 

Now Gypsy Sam ignites his tobacco by scooping 
up a red ember with the bowl of his pipe. His wife 
does the same, and I follow suit. 

"A prettier place is this," quoth Lottie, "than 
when you see'd us under that ugly railway bank at 
Hull." 

Verily the Gypsies are possessed of an aesthetic 
sense, and their roving eyes grow wistful as they take 
in the beauty of the distant hills and the sun-gleams 
lighting up grassy knolls and spindly fir-trees rising 
from patches of sand. 

"You remember that pawno grai (white horse) of 
ours?" says Sam. "Well, we lost him a little while 
back. A bit of wafro bok (bad luck) that was for us. 
We was stopping at a place with nasty bogs around 
us, and one stormy night the grai got into one of 'em 
unbeknown to we, and i' the morning we found him 
with no more than his nose sticking out. Of course 
he were dead as a stone. Then there was that kawlo 
jukel (black dog) what you saw at Hull brother to 
this one under the cart he got poisoned up yonder 
by Rotherham. I reckon a keeper done it as had a 
spite agen us. I wouldn't ha' parted with that dog 
for a good deal ; he's got us many a rabbit." 

The steaming splutter of the kettle suggests a 



282 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

meal, which is soon spread in winsome style. Mean- 
while, from another fire hard by, a black pot is brought, 
and a savoury stew is followed by tea and slices of 
buttered bread with green cresses fresh from the 
brook. As Lottie lifts the silver teapot to pour out 
tea, I cannot help admiring the lovely old thing, and 
the Gypsy sees my appreciation. 

" Yes," (holding it up in the sunlight), "it's a beauty, 
ain't it ? Did you ever hear of my Aunt Joni's quart 
silver teapot ? Squire Shandres used to fix greedy 
eyes on it whenever he come down to the camp, but 
my aunt wouldn't part with it, not likely. You won't 
remember Joni, of course. A funny old woman she 
were, to be sure. There was one thing I minds her 
a-telling of us. She'd been out with her kipsi (basket) 
but it weren't one of her good days, and by night her 
basket was nearly as heavy as when she'd set out. 
Twopence was all she'd made, as she passed through 
three or four willages, tumble-down sort of places, 
where the house walls were bent and the thatches of 
the cottages were sinking into the rooms underneath 
'em. At one of these cottages as stood in an odd 
corner, Joni stopped to knock. Two steps led up to 
a green door with a bird-cage hanging outside. She 
waited a minute, but as nobody came she gave two 
more raps and tried the door. It was bolted. After 
that she heard sounds inside, a muttering voice came 
nearer, and slip-slap went the shoes, as an old woman 
opened the door. Talk about ugly, she was that, if 
you like ; and there was hair growing on her lip and 



FURZEMOOR 283 

chin. Fixing her black eyes on Joni, she scowled 
and scolded, and, pointing a finger at her, she cursed 
poor Joni, and for ten days afterwards my aunt couldn't 
speak proper. Whenever she tried to talk, she could 
only groan and bark and moo like the beastses, and 
it wasn't till after the tenth day that she were herself 
at all." 

From witches it was not a long leap to wise 
men. 

Said Lottie, " Did I ever tell you about the wise 
man of Northampton ? Well, it was one time as I'd 
had wery bad luck indeed with my basket. I couldn't 
sell nothing at all in the willages agen that town, but 
I know'd a gozvero mush (wise man) as lived there, 
so I went to see him, and he give me a rabbit's head 
and a cake of bread. 'Now,' says he, 'go you and 
call at the places where you've took nothing, and 
you'll take money at all of 'em/ 

" And what he told me came true, every word of 
it. I'll take my sacrium oath it did. That there 
gozvero mush (wise man) could tell the names of 
folks as had stolen things, and he could ddker (tell 
fortunes) like one of us. He could tell folk a lot 
about theirselves by rubbing his hand over the 
bumps on their heads, and he could read the stars 
like a book, and find out things by the cards and by 
the crystal. He was sort of friendly with our people, 
and they liked him, but they would never go near 
a witch if they knew it." 

Jt has been truly said, " No one is fond of 



284 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

Gypsies, but is fonder of Gypsy children." Grave- 
eyed pixies, at once bold and reserved, these quaint 
little sprites are simply irresistible. When the meal 
is over, I stroll off with a party of these romping 
rascals towards a gorsy hollow which the sun warms 
into a gayer gold. Asking the children if they 
would like a tale, and what sort? Answer comes, 
" A muleno gudlo" (fairy tale). 

" How long ? " 

" A mile long, in course." 

Into my tale creeps a ghost, and when I had 
done, little Reuben says 

" I know something about mulos (ghosts). One 
time a man was killed by a bull at the corner of the 
lane down yonder, and we allus hurries past that place 
for fear of dikm his mulo " (seeing his ghost). " And 
then there was two Gypsies as father once know'd. 
They begged some straw from a farmer and put it 
in a little shed for to sleep on. Then they went 
into the willage to buy a loaf, and when they got 
back they found the straw had gone. A little ways 
off they see'd a woman running away with the straw, 
but 'stid of follering her they went straight to the 
farmhouse where they'd got leave to sleep in the 
shed, and they told the farmer about the woman, 
and he says 

"'Why, that's my old woman as died ten year 
ago.' My word, those Gypsies soon began to look 
out for a sleeping-place somewhere else. Yes. we 
knows a lot about mu/os," 



FURZEMOOR 28$ 

" What's that noise?" asked one of the girls, 
springing up. 

" Come away tshave (children). Come away, sir. 
Don't you hear that nasty little sap " (snake) ? 

From among the mossy stones near at hand 
came a hissing sound, and there, sure enough, was 
a small viper wagging his black-forked tongue at us. 
We got up and moved nearer the camp. 

" Norfolk's the place for sarpints," said one of 
the boys ; " I once see one with a frog in its mouth. 
Lor, how the poor thing did squeal. There's lots 
of lizards about here, and they say that a hotshi 
(hedgehog) will eat 'em, but if I thought that I'd 
never touch no more hotshi s'long as I live." 

I told the children of a little incident which had 
happened on my way to Furzemoor, how I had cycled 
into a family of weasels crossing the road but didn't 
run over any of them, and, dismounting, I banged 
one of the little fellows with my hat. He lay still, 
and I thought he was dead, but when I turned my 
head for a moment he was gone like a flash. Lottie, 
who had drawn near and was listening, remarked 

" It's bad luck to meet a wezzel on the drom (road), 
but if there's anything we does like to meet, it's the 
Romany tshiriklo (bird)," which I knew to be the 
pied wagtail, the foreteller of coming Gypsies. 

" When we sees our tshiriklo on the road, and it 
flies, we knows we are going to meet Gypsies who'll 
be akin to us, but if it only runs away, the travellers 
coming will be strangers. One day me and my man 



286 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

was on the drom and we see a young hare tumbling 
over and over in front of us. That's a sign as means 
ill, and, sure enough, a few days after we heard tell 
of the death of my man's uncle 'Lijah. Talking 
about meeting things, I've heard it said that if you 
meet two carts, one tied behind t'other, you'll soon 
go to prison." 

The strains of a fiddle now proceeded from where 
Sam sat alone by the fire, and we joined him. As 
the sun was going down one of the girls proposed 
a dance, and soon a merry whirl of Gypsy elves 
enlivened the camp. By the fireside, reminiscences 
came crowding into Sam's brain. 

" Many's the time, as you know, we've draw'd 
on to this place, and I takes good care to be friendly 
with all the keepers round here. I never meddles 
wi' nothink, you see, so we never gets across wi' 'em. 
Ay, but I minds when I didn't used to be so 
pertikler. See that oak wood up yonder ? In my 
young days me and my old mammy got leave from 
a keeper to gather acorns in that wood. Us used 
to take 7 ur sacks and fill 'em with acorns and sell 
'em to a man as we know'd. And mam 'ud warn 
me not to meddle with the rabbits, lest we should 
be forbid to stop on here. One afternoon mam had 
half-filled her sack, and when her back was turned, I 
tumbled the acorns out, and slipped into the sack three 
rabbits as I'd knocked over, and I put the acorns 
back on the top of 'em. I was a good big lad then, and, 
my, wasn't I frit when I see the keeper coming with 



FURZEMOOR 287 

his dog. When he got up to us, he and mam got 
a-talking, and I see the dog sniffing round the bag. 
The keeper, thinking that there was only acorns in 
it, shouts to the dog, " Come away there." But the 
dog stuck there, and I was trembling in my boots 
for fear we should get into trouble. Howsiver, the 
keeper kept calling the dog off, and soon they goes 
away. Then I nips up the bag and trots off home 
with it, and when I told mam about it afterwards she 
gave me a downright good scolding and begged me 
never to do it no more. 

" Our old folks allus travelled with pack-donkeys, 
and they had one donkey as was a wery knowing 
animal. I'll tell you one thing it did. We was 
stopping in a lane of a summer's evening, and our 
foki (people) was smoking afore the fire under a 
hedge with the children playing round, and every- 
body was as happy as the Lord in Heaven, but all at 
once our maila (donkey) comes and pokes its head 
atween daddy and me, and I taps it on the nose, 
playful-like, to send it away, but it comes back, and 
it was that restless and fidgety, poking and pulling 
at us it wouldn't be druv off. My mammy had 
been watching it from the tent, and she come up 
and says 

" ' That maila knows summut, I reckons.' 
" ' Ay, it's a sign sure enough,' says daddy. And 
the donkey still kep' on poking and pulling at us. 
Long and by last dad says 

'"We'd better clear out of here,' for he thought 



288 THE GYPSY'S PARSON 

there was summut queer about the donkey's goings 
on. Well, we pulled up the tent rods and packed 
'ur things, and we'd only just got out of the lane 
when two horsemen come along and began inquir- 
ing about a little pig as was missing from a farm. 
They made us unpack, and they searched through 
everythink, but, of course, they couldn't find nothink 
agen us, and they goes their way and we goes ours. 
And that night, after we had settled down in an old 
quarry a bit furder on, my daddy beckoned me and 
took me to a deep hollow full o' dead leaves, and, 
scrabbling among 'em, he takes out what do you 
think ? The nicest little bawlo (porker) you ever 
see'd, and we gets it safe home. That donkey did 
know summut after all. Ay, them were the old 
times. Things is wery different now. 

"If you come here to-morrow you'll mebbe walk 
up with me to the planting on t'other side of yon 
beck. The rai as this land belongs to lets me tshin 
(cut) all the ivuzen (elder) I wants. My old daddy 
used to say 

" ' You should never lay a chopper to a tree wi'out 
first axing the fairies' leave,' but folks forgets to do 
it now." 

The eyes of my friends here began to turn 
frequently in the direction of the cart-track. Indeed, 
when their eyes were not looking that way it seemed 
to me that their minds still were. Nor was this 
expectancy to go long unsatisfied, for soon there 
appeared in the sunken lane a black chimney topping 



FURZEMOOR 289 

a green-hooded vehicle, a light cart bringing up the 
rear. These Gypsies turned out to be a married son 
of Sam, with his wife and family. Here was a jolly 
arrival. With surprising rapidity the horses were 
unyoked, and the newcomers were gathered round 
their parents on the grass. Off to a well-known 
spring run the girls to fill the kettle and a bucket 
or two, and the boys scamper off towards a spinney 
to return with an abundance of dead wood. Then 
how the fires crackle and spurt, and in next to no 
time the steam is puffing from kettle spouts. 

Feeling ten years younger for my visit to the 
Furzemoor Gypsies, I climbed up the deeply-rutted 
lane on the way to the distant railway station, and, 
as I turned for a last look, brown hands were waving, 
and kushto bok (good luck), which is the Gypsy's 
"good-bye/' was shouted after me. On my part I 
felt a strong tugging at the heart when, at a bend in 
the lane, I caught a farewell glimpse of the domed 
tents, upcurling blue smoke, and happy Gypsies 
among the golden gorse. 



GLOSSARY 



PRONUNCIATION l 

I. VOWEL-SOUNDS 

& as in alms (ams). 

a aloe (aid). 

aw all (awl). 

e ale (el). 

e air (er). 

e ell (el). 

1 eel (11). 

i ill(il). 

6 old (old). 

o olive (oliv). 

u , ooze (uz). 

u book (buk). 

u ulcer (ulsa). 

II. DIPHTHONGS 

ai as in aisle (ail). 

oi oyster (oista). 

ou ounce (ouns). 

III. CONSONANTS 

The following are pronounced as in English : 
b, d, f, h, k, 1, m, n, p, t, v, w. 

v and w are, as a rule, easily interchangeable. 

y as in yes (yes). 

r ....... roam (rom). 

ch loch (Scottish loch). 

1 Taken from A System of Anglo-Romani Spelling for English Readers and 

British Printers ; by R. A. Scott Macfie. 

291 



292 



THE GYPSY'S PARSON 



s 
sh . 


. as in ass (as). 
shin (shin). 


tsh . 




z 

zh . 


zest (zest). 
pleasure (plezhur). 


j(dzh) . . . 

g 

ng 


jest (jest). 
gate (get). 


ngg . 
th . 
dh 


finger (fingga). 
thin (thin), 
then (dhen). 



VOCABULARY. 



ROMANY. 
Adre. 
Akai .... 
Apopli 
Apre .... 


ENGLISH. 
. In, into, within. 
. Here. 
. Again. 
On, upon. 


Av . 


. Come. 


Ava, avali, awa, awali . 


. Yes, certainly, verily 


Avri .... 


. Away, out. 


Ba . 


. Stone, sovereign Gi). 


Baiengri 


. Waistcoat. 


Bal . 


. Hair 


Balovas 


. Bacon, ham. 


Barvelo 


. Rich. 


Baw .... 


. Comrade, mate. 


Bawlo 


Pig- 


Bawro 


. Great, large. 


Bawro-Gav . 


London. 


Beng. 


. Devil. 


Besh. 


. Sit, rest, lie. 


Bibi .... 


. Aunt. 


Biken 


. Sell. 


Bita .... 


. Little. 


Bitshado . 


. Sent. 


Bitshado-pawdel 


. Sent over, transported. 


Bok . 


. Luck. 


Bokro 


. Sheep. 



GLOSSARY 



293 



ROMANY. 
Bokro-mas . 
Bongo 

Boshomengro 
Bouri 

Bouri-zimen 
Bfidika 

Dabla 

Dadus 

Dai . 

Dawdi 

Delaben 

Del-apre 

Didakai 

Dik . 

Dikamengri 

Diklo 

Dinelo 

Diri . 

Divus 

Dosta 

Dova . 

Drom 

Dui . 

Duker 

Dukeripen . 

Duvel 

Foki . 

Gad . 

Gawjikeno . 
Gawjo 

Gav . 

Gero . 
Gozvero 
Grai . 
Gudlo 
Gtmo 



ENGLISH. 
Mutton. 

Crooked, lame, wrong. 
Fiddler. 
Snail. 

Snail-broth. 
Shop. 

Exclamation of surprise. 

Father. 

Mother. 

Exclamation of surprise. 

Gift. 

Read. 

Half-breed Gypsy. 

See, look. 

Picture, looking-glass. 

Kerchief. 

Fool, simpleton. 

Dear. 

Day. 

Enough, plenty. 

That. 

Road. 

Two. 

Tell fortunes. 

Fortune. 

God. 

People. 

Shirt. 

Belonging to gentiles. 

Alien, gentile, anyone who 

is not a Gypsy. 
Town. 
Man. 
Cunning. 
Horse. 
Tale, noise. 
Bag, sack. 



294 



THE GYPSY'S PARSON 



ROMANY. 


ENGLISH. 


Hatsh 


. Stop, camp. 


Hatsh-opre 


. Arise, get up. 


Haw . 


. Eat. 


Hawben 


. A meal, food. 


Hero. 


. Leg, wheel. 


Hokano 


. Lie, trick, swindle. 


Hora . 


. Penny. 


Hotsherdo . 


. Burnt. 


Hotshiwitshi 


. Hedgehog. 


Jaw . 


. Go. 


Jin ... 


. Know. 


Jiv . . . 


. Live. 


Jukel. 


. Dog. 


Kai . 


. Where. 


Kanengro . 


. Hare. 


Kani . 


. Hen. 


Kawlo 


. Black. 


Ke-divus . 


. To-day. 


Kek, keka . 


No, not, never. 


Kel, ker . 


. Do, make. 


Ker . 


House. 


Kipsi . 


. Basket. 


Kisi . 


. Much. 


Kitshima . 


. Tavern, public-house. 


Klisin 


. Lock. 


Kokero 


. Self. 


Koliko . 


. To-morrow. 


Kom . 


. Love, like. 


Kon . 


Who 


Konaw 


. Now. 


Kongri 


. Church. 


Kopa 


. Blanket. 


Kosht 




Kova 


. This, thing. 


Krafni 


. Button. 


Kurp . 


. Cup, glass, mug. 


Kushto 


. Good. 



GLOSSARY 



295 



ROMANY. 


ENGLISH. 


Laj . . . . 


. Shame. 


Latsher 


. Find, pick up. 


Lav . 


. Word. 


Lavengro . 


. Word-man, linguist. 


Lei .... 


. Get, take. 


Len, lendi . 


. Them, their. 


Lesti .... 


. Him, his. 


Levina 


. Beer. 


Lil . 


. Book, paper. 


Loli .... 


. Red. 


Lova. 


. Money. 


Maila 


. Donkey. 


Man, mandi 


. I, me. 


Mas . 


. Meat. 


Masengro . 


. Butcher. 


Maw .... 


. Don't. 


Maw. 


. Kill, slay, murder. 


Mi, miro, m'o . 


. My, mine. 


Mokado . 


. Unclean. 


Mokto 


. Box. 


Mol . 


. Wine. 


Mong 


. Beg, pray, request. 


Monushni . 


. Woman, wife. 


M^i . 


. Mouth, face. 


Muk .... 


. Let, allow, leave, lend. 


Muleno 


. Ghostly, fairy, super- 




natural. 


Mulo 


. Dead, ghost. 


Mulo-mas . 


. Carrion. 


Mumeli 


. Candle. 


Mumpari, mumper 


. Low-class traveller. 


Mumpli 


. Nasty. 


Mush 


. Man. 


Muskro 


. Policeman. 


Nasher 


Lose, waste. 


Nongo 


. Naked, bald, bare. 


O . 


. The. 


Odoi .... 


. There. 



296 



THE GYPSY'S PARSON 



ROMANY. 
Opre . 
Ora . 

Pal . 

Pani . 

Pariko 

Patrin 

Pawdel 

Pawni 

Pen 

Pen . 

Peser 

Petulengro . 

Piro . 

x Pogado . 
Poger 
Porj . 
Posh . 
Piaster 
Puker 
Pfikinger . 
Pfiri-dai . 
Puro . 
Piirum 
Putsh 
Puv . 
Puvengri . 

Rai, raia . 
Rakli 
Rashai 
Rat . 
Rat, rati . 
Rawni 
Rinkeno . 
Rokamiaw . 
Roker 
Rokerben . 
Rom . 



ENGLISH. 

On, up, upon. 

Hour, watch. 

. Brother. 

. Water. 

. Thank. 

. Trail, sign, leaf. 

. Across, over, beyond. 

. Fair, white. 

. Sister. 

. Say. 

. Pay. 

. Smith. 

. Foot. 

. Broken. 

. Break. 

Bridge. 
. Half. 
. Run. 

Tell. 

Magistrate. 

Grandmother. 

Old. 

Leek. 

Ask. 

Field. 

Potato. 

Gentleman, sir. 

Girl. 

Priest, parson. 

Blood. 

Night. 

Lady. 

Beautiful. 

Trousers. 

Talk, speak. 

Conversation, speech. 

Husband. 



GLOSSARY 



297 



ROMANY. ENGLISH. 

Romanes .... . Gypsy -wise, Gypsy 

guage. 

Romanitshel ... . Gypsy. 

Romano .... . Gypsy. 

Romer Marry 

Rup . . . Silver. 

Sa How. 

Sal Laugh. 

Sap . Snake. 

Saw All, everything. 

Sawkumi Everybody. 

Sawla Morning. 

Shan Are. 

Shukora Sixpence. 

Sh^n Hear. 

Shushi Rabbit. 

Si Is. 

Sig Quickly, soon, early. 

So What. 

Sos Was. 

Stari Star. 

Staruben Prison. 

Stor Four. 

Swegler Pipe. 

Ta And. 

Tader Draw. 

Tale Down. 

Tan Tent. 

Tano. Young. 

Tatsheno True, genuine. 

Tatshipen Truth. 

Tatsho True. 

Te To. 

Tern Country, land. 

Tiro Your. 

Tov Wash. 

Trash Frighten. 

Trin . . . Three. 



Ian- 



298 



THE GYPSY'S PARSON 



ROMANY. 


ENGLISH. 


Tshai .... 


. Lass, daughter, girl. 


Tshavo .... 


. Son. 


Tshib .... 


. Tongue, language. 


Tshikli .... 


. Dirty, foul. 


Tshin .... 


. Cut. 


Tshiriklo .... 


. Bird. 


Tshitshi .... 


. Nothing. 


Tshiv .... 


. Put. 


Tshokaw .... 


. Boots. 


Tshor 


Steal 


Tshordo .... 


. Stolen. 


Tshori .... 


. Poor. 


Tshovihawni 


. Witch. 


Tshumani .... 


Something. 


Tshupni .... 


. Whip. 


Tu, tut, tuti 


. You. 


Tuv . 




Tuvalo .... 


. Tobacco. 


Vado 


. Caravan, cart. 


Vava 


. Another. 


Vast 


. Hand. 


Vel, wel . 


. Come. 


Wafodu, wafro . 


. Bad. 


Wesh, vesh 


. Wood, forest. 


Wuser .... 


. Throw. 


Wuzen .... 


. Elder. 


Yek 


. One. 


Yog 


. Fire. 


Yoi 


. She. 


Yora 


Egg- 


Yov . 


He. 



Zimen 



Dunnock . 
Mush-fakir . 



. Broth 

MUMPER'S PATTER 

. Steer. 

Umbrella-mender. 



NOMENCLATURE 



299 



GYP$Y "FORE" OR CHRISTIAN NAMES. 



MASCULINE NAMES. 


Airant. 


Kaivela. 


Aniel. 


Kashi. 


Artelus. 


Khulai. 


Baius. 


Ladin 


Barendon. 


Lamerok. 


Bartholoways. 


Leshi. 


Bohemia. 


Liberty. 


Bosko 


Logan. 


Boufi. 


Loni. 


Buzi. 


Lumas. 


Craimia 


Lusha. 


Credi. 


Mairik. 


Dimiti. 


Manabel 


Dinki. 


Manfri. 


Doval. 


Manful. 


Dud. 


Mantis. 


Duraia. 


Meriful. 


Dusti. 


Moelus. 


Eros. 


Morpus. 


Evergreen. 


Moti. 


Fell. 


Motsha. 


Fennix. 


Motshan. 


Fowk. 


Motshus. 


Ganation. 


Muldobrai. 


Glympton. 


Nelus. 


Golias. 


Niabai. 


Goni. 


Nipkin. 


Gui. 


Nitshel. 


Haini. 


Northalion. 


Harkles. 


Obi. 


Harodain. 


Oki. 


Hedji. 


<3lbi. 


Inan. 


Oli. 


Ithil. 


Orferus. 


Iza. 


Oseri 


Jaina, 


Othi. 



300 



THE GYPSY'S PARSON 



Oti. 

Penderbela. 

Persuvius. 

Perun. 

Pesulia. 

Piramus. 

Polius. 

Potamus. 

Rabai. 

Raito. 

Renda. 

Righteous. 

Rinki. 

Ruslo. 

Sairenda. 

Santabelphijum. 

Santalina. 

Santanoa. 

Seki. 

Seneptune. 

Shandres. 

Shani. 



Shiva. 

Silus. 

Simpronius. 

Solivaino. 

Studivares 

Swallow. 

Taimi. 

Taiso. 

Teni. 

Thurles. 

Tudlin. 

Tuti. 

Vaina. 

Wacka. 

Waimore. 

Wantelo. 

Wingi. 

Woodlock. 

Yoben. 

Zegul. 

Zezil. 



FEMININE NAMES. 



Acorn. 

Alamina. 

Andelia. 

Angelis. 

Anis. 

Ashena. 

Ashila. 

Aslog. 

Begonia. 

Bidi. 

Biti. 

Bobum. 

Boina. 

Consuleti. 

Daiena. 



Darklis. 

Delaia. 

Delenda. 

Deleta. 

Deloreni. 

Dorenia. 

Edingel. 

Eldorai. 

Elophia. 

Elvaira. 

Emanaia. 

Erosabel 

Everilda. 

Ezi. 

Fazenti. 



NOMENCLATURE 



301 



Femi. 

Fernet. 

Fianci. 

Fill. 

Florentia. 

Fluenzi. 

Froniga. 

Genti. 

Glorina. 

Graveleni. 

Idade. 

Inji. 

Jeta 

Joni. 

Kadilia. 

Kerlenda. 

Kiomi. 

Kodi. 

Kraisini. 

Laini. 

Lavaina. 

Leanabel. 

Lenda. 

Leondra. 

Levaithen. 

Lidi. 

Linji. 

Liti. 

Lurina. 

Lusana. 

Lwaiden. 

Madona. 

Maiburi. 

Maireni. 

Mandra. 

Marbeleni. 

Melvinia. 

Memberensi. 

Mezi. 

Million. 



Mino. 

Mireli. 

Miselda. 

Mitoreni. 

Mizereti. 

Modiwench. 

Morjiana. 

Nareli. 

Olovina 

Omi. 

Oshina. 

Paizeni. 

Paizi. 

Pamela. 

Penhela. 

Perpagelion. 

Piki. 

Plenti. 

Polovine. 

Pomona. 

Queenation. 

Reni. 

Repentance 

Repriona. 

Richenda. 

Rodi. 

Romania. 

Saibarini. 

Saiera. 

Sain. 

Saiforela. 

Saiki. 

Sanspirela. 

Savaina. 

Sedinia. 

Seluna. 

Seni. 

Separi. 

Shorensi. 

Shuri. 



302 



THE GYPSY'S PARSON 



Sibela. 

Siberensi. 

Sibereti. 

Sinaminta. 

Sinfai. 

Spidi. 

Stari. 

Suti. 

Taishan. 

Telaitha. 

Tiena. 

Traienti. 

Treci. 

Treli. 

Trenit. 



Vashti. 

Wadi. 

Waini. 

Wasti. 

Wenti. 

Weson. 

Whipni. 

Widens. 

Wigi. 

Wuzi. 

Yunakrai. 

Zebra. 

Zina. 

Zuba. 



INDEX 



Arnold, Matthew, The Scholar- 
Gipsy, 123. 

Articles enclosed in coffin, 243. 

Aryan languages of India and the 
Gypsy language, 73-74- 

Australia, Gypsies in, 167-168. 

Baring- Gould, S., Book of Folk- 
Lore, 22. 

Borrow, George, 27, 81, 197, 264 ; 
Dumpling Green (Borrow's 
birthplace), 197 ; Lavengro, 27, 
28, 1 60, 197, 241 ; Borrow's 
originals, 28-31, 158; The 
Romany Rye, 28-30, 143, 230, 
232 ; Romany (Gypsy) Word- 
Book, 1 6 1, 165, 249 ; The Zincali, 
81-83. 

Bottomless pool, a, 272. 

Brancepeth Castle, 33, 35. 

Bread crumbled to ward off evil, 

S3- 

Brewer, Dr., Dictionary of Fable, 
126. 

Burning possessions of the de- 
parted, 243, 246. 

Byard's Leap, a witch legend, 140- 
141. 

Caian, The (quoted), 73-74. 
Calderari, the, 206. 
Charm, a Gypsy, 36. 
Childbirth tabu, 53. 
Coining words, 170. 



Creel (portable grinding-machine), 
161. 

Creenies, 206. 

Crinks, 207. 

Crofton, H. T., on continental 
origin of certain Anglo- Romany 
Christian names, 54 ; The Dia- 
lect of the English Gypsies. See 
Smart. 

Crystal-gazing, 108, 223-225. 

Dancing booth, 177. 

Dark Ages, The, by " L.," 246. 

Death-hawk, 245. 

Devil and nuts, Hi. 

Dialect of the English Gypsies, 

The, by Dr. Bath Smart and 

H. T. Crofton, 76, 239. 
Dialects, modern Indian, 73. 
Dialogue between two Gypsies, 

144-145. 
Diamond, Manful Heron's, 190- 

191. 

Didakais (half-breeds), 25, 77. 
Drinking-vessels of aliens avoided, 

82. 

East Anglian Gypsy family, an, 

104-117. 
Egyptian origin of the Gypsies, 

legend of, 74-75. 
Ermine Street (High Dyke), a 

Roman road, 134. 
Evil eye, 53, 129. 



303 



304 



INDEX 



Fairies, 15, 288. 

Fairs Bala, 265 ; Brough Hill, 
275 ; Horncastle, 229 - 237 ; 
Leicestershire Fair, a, 47 ; Lin- 
coln, 257 ; Newark-on-Trent, 
141-142 ; Peterborough, 118- 
133 ; Seamer, 184-185 ; Stow 
Green, 68-70; West Stockwith, 
89-98. 

Fasting, in, 163. 

Fear of ghost, 243. 

Feeding a gibbeted man, 22. 

Ferdousi (quoted), 114. 

Fight between Gypsies, a, 69-70. 

Fighting song, a, 70. 

Flaming, Tinman, the, 28. 

Fortune-telling, 61, 107-108, 128. 

Fossdyke, a Roman canal, 16-17. 

Freckles and Gypsies, 102. 

Gamekeepers and Gypsies, 19, 63, 

139, 286-287. 
Gentleman Gypsy, the. See 

Stables, Dr. Gordon. 
Ghosts, 66-67, 108-109, 183, 284. 
Gibberish, 78, 153. 
Gilliat-Smith, B., on the Gypsy 

language, 73~74- 
Glanvill, Joseph, The Vanity of 

Dogmatizing, 123-125. 
Gordon, Jean, prototype of Meg 

Merrilies, 28. 
Great North Road, the, 55, 57, 100, 

104, 207. 
Groome, F. H., 91, 102, 129 ; 

Gypsy Folk-Tales, itf ; In Gipsy 

Tents, 85 ; letter (quoted), 126. 
Gypsy baptism, a, 52-53. 

benison, a, 46. 

bird (pied wagtail), 89, 285. 

blood, grades of, 77. 

burial lore, 240-246. 

carelessness about names, 

131- 

cheerfulness, 34. 



Gypsy, Christian or " fore " names, 

53-54, 299-302. 
church -going, 219. 
cookery, 277. 
Court, its characters, 18-27, 

105, 176. 

crimes, 254-255. 
curse, 129. 
dreams, 109-110, 159. 
enchantress, a, 164-165. 
epitaphs, 150, 244. 
eye, the, 160-161. 
fetish, 145-146. 
fiddlers, 10-11, 29-30, 84, 

86, 120, 195, 222, 266-267, 

274-275. 

fighters, 3, 30, 69-70. 
graves, 150, 170, 238, 240. 
guiding-signs (pairing 95- 

96, 142-143- 
harpist, 85-86, 275. 
heroism, 30. 
hospitality, 49-51. 
incantation over sick person, 

164-165. 
Gypsy Jack, a drama, 103. 

Laddie, the, a ballad, 171. 
Gypsy language, the, 73-74, 153. 
Lore Society (note), 254. 
love of extraordinary names, 

54- 

love of a fire, 10. 

marriage, 176. 

mesmerism, 122-125. 

migrations, 157. 

moods, 7. 

morals, 255. 

name-changes, 244-245. 

origins, 72-76. 

pedigrees, 78-79* l ^7- 

pets, 142, 192-193. 

play-spirit, 91-94, 216. 

politeness, 3, 79. 

pride, 76, 156. 

queens, 71. 



INDEX 



305 



Gypsy reverence for the dead, 240. 

sense of beauty, 281. 

snuff -taking, 18, 196. 

soldier, a, 27. 

song, a, 84-85. 

surnames, 55-56. 

tent, construction of, 146. 

tinkers, 205-212. 

trial, a, 31. 

tricks, 121-123, 132, 236. 

unwillingness to impart 
names, 54~55- 

warning whistle, 7, 280. 

washing rules, 113-114. 
Gypsyries Blackpool, 71-88 ; 
Derby, 157-165 ; Lincoln, 2-4 ; 
London, 162, 198-201 ; Scar- 
borough, 1 73-1 79. 

Half-breeds, 77, 181. 
Hangman's Ditch, 2. 
Hedge-crawlers, 77, 156. 
Hedgehog, 26, 45, 49-5) 62 > 6 7> 

177-178, 257. 
"Helm" wind (at Brough Hill), 

276. 
Henry IV. (Shakespeare), quoted, 

207. 
High Dyke, or Ermine Street, 134- 

141. 

Hindi, 73. 
Hokano Bawro, a traditional 

swindle, 121-122. 
Holyhead Road, the, 262, 268. 
Horse of deceased Gypsy shot or 

sold, 243, 246. 
Horse-stealing, 132. 
Hoyland, Historical Survey of the 

Gypsies, 39. 



Irish vagrants, 157. 

Jack o' Lantern, 147. 
Jewellery of deceased 
dropped into river, 243. 
20 



Gypsy 



Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society ', 
The, 164-165. 

King Edward the VII. (when Prince 

of Wales), 203. 
Kirk Yetholm, 115. 
Knapp, Dr. W. I., The Life, 

Writings, and Correspondence of 

George Borrow, 28. 

Legends and folk-tales 

Caspar, one of the Magi, a 

Gypsy, 75- 
Ghost of the Haystack, the, 

147-148. 

Ghost of the Ford, the, 222. 
Happy Boz'll's Tales, 257-261. 
Nails at the Crucifixion, a 

legend, 75. 
O'NeiFs Horse, 182. 
Romanitshels hail from Egypt, a 

legend, 74~75- 
Ruzlam Boz'll's Boy and the 

Fairies, 14-15. 
Witch of B yard's Leap, the, 

140-141. 
Wry-necked Fiddler, the, and the 

Devil, 225-227. 
Zuba Lovell sells herself to the 

Devil, 112-113. 

Leland, Charles G., 54 ; The 
English Gipsies and their Lan- 
guage, 203 ; his discovery of 
Shelta (note), 208. 
Libation on Gypsy graves, 151, 

240. 

Lincoln, Upper (described), 1-2. 
Lithuanian Gypsies, 75. 
Loan-words, 74. 
Lying tales, 86-87, 257-261. 

Mace, Jem, the pugilist, 195, 233. 
M'Cormick, Provost, his Tinkler 
Gypsies (quoted), 10. 



306 



INDEX 



Macfie, R. A. Scott, lecture 
(quoted), 254-255 ; System of 
Anglo - Romany Spelling for 
English Readers and British 
Printers, 291-292. 

Magi, the, a Gypsy legend, 75. 

Merrilies, Meg, 28. 

Meyer, Kuno, on Shelta (note), 
207. 

Miller, Thomas, Gideon Giles the 
Roper, 161. 

Mokadi (unclean), 113-114. 

Mousehold Heath, 28, 80-81, 197. 

Moveable Dwellings Bill, the, 155. 

Mulo-mas (note), 61, 62. 

Mumper's Dingle, 31. 

Mumpers and Gypsies contrasted, 
77. 

Name-changes, 192, 244-245. 
Newark ale, 221, 223. 
No Man's Land, 178. 
Nomenclature, Gypsy, 299-302. 

Oakley (an artist), 163. 
Omens, 245, 285-286. 
Oppression of Gypsies, 20. 

Pall Mall Budget, the, 43. 

" Peelers," 26. 

Petolengro Jasper (Ambrose Smith), 

28,30, 157, 197,229,241. 
Public Record Office, the, 247. 
Puvin Graiaw, the illegal pasturing 

of horses, 138. 

Recipe for youth, a, 278. 

Robin Hood's Bay, Gypsies at, 

178, 180-183. 
Hills, 149. 

Romany Language, its pronuncia- 
tion, 291-292. 

Vocabulary, a, 292-298. 
Rudiger, 73. 



Sampson, Dr. John, on Shelta 

(note), 207-208. 
Sanskrit, 73~74- 

Scott, Sir Walter, 28 ; Guy Man- 
nering, 28 ; Sheriff of Selkirk- 
shire, 39, 234. 
Scythe blades in Horncastle 

Church, 230-231. 
Self-sacrifice of a sweep, 249. 
Shelta (tinkers' talk), its Celtic 
origin (note), 207-208 ; short 
vocabulary of, 212. 
Sims, G. R., The Romany Rye (a 

drama), 103-104. 
Smart, Dr. Bath, and Crofton, 
H. T., The Dialect of the English 
Gypsies, 76, 239. 

Smith, George, of Coalville (phil- 
anthropist), 51, 155-156. 
Snail broth, 62. 
Snakes, 88, 285. 
Spanish Gypsies, 196. 
Spirits summoned by the spoken 

name, 54-5 5. 

Stables, Dr. Gordon, 149-150. 
Stone, J. Harris, Caravanning and 

Camping Out, 241. 
Stones 

Bishop Trollope's Story of Dun- 

ston Pillar, 137-138. 
Bobby Faa and the Shepherd's 

Pie, 115-117. 
Dunnock (steer), a Tale about, 

12-13. 
Eliza Gray's Tale of a Ghost, 108- 

109. 

" Finding" a Horse, 132-133. 
Poaching Policeman, a, 63. 
The Bough Licence, 232-233. 
The Donkey that knew Some- 
thing, 287-288. 
The Gypsy's Surprise, 37- 

38. 

Tyso Boswell and the Buried 
Treasure, 190. 



INDEX 



30? 



Tabu, childbirth, 53. 

on food and drink of the 

dead, 39-40, 243. 
on names of the dead, 244- 

245. 
Tales. See Legends, Lying Tales, 

Stories, Transportation. 
Temple, Sir Richard, on Gypsy 

Christian names, 54. 
Theatre, Harrison's, 103. 
Thompson, T. W., on Gypsy burial, 

241. 

Times, the, 103-104. 
Tinkers, 205-212, 249. 
Tinkers' talk. See Shelta. 
Tinklers, 10, 207. 
Transportation of Gypsies, 247- 

254. 
tales, 247-254. 



Trollope, Bishop E., 137. 
Turning garments of dead inside 
out, 242-243. 

Victoria, Queen, More Leaves from 
the Journal of a Life in the 
Highlands (quoted), 29. 

Watching the corpse, 242. 

the grave, 243-244. 
Wayside burial, 240-242. 
Welsh Gypsies, 262-269. 
White, Gilbert, of Selborne, 55. 
Wine buried, 114. 
Wise man, a, 283. 

woman, a, 223. 
Wishing a wish, 129. 
Witches, 1 88, 240, 282-283. 
Wood, Abraham, 265-266. 



14 DAY USE 

RETURN TO DESK FROM WHICH BORROWED 

LOAN DEPT. 

This book is due on the last date stamped below, or 
on the date to which renewed. 

are subject to immediate recall. 



LD 21A-60m-3,'65 
(F2336slO)476B 



General Library 

University of California 

Berkeley